As you were notified, Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State is unable to attend today as he has long-standing commitments in Scotland. However, I am very pleased to be joined by the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend Neil O’Brien, and the Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend Greg Hands.
We published our updated shipbuilding strategy in March, and it sets out a comprehensive package of Government support to further a shipbuilding renaissance for the whole UK. There will be well over £4 billion of investment in UK shipbuilding over the next three years alone, including a range of opportunities for Scottish shipbuilders.
The UK Government’s refreshed national shipbuilding strategy commits £4 billion to deliver 150 new naval and civil vessels over the next 30 years, in stark contrast to the Scottish Government’s squandering of £250 million on ferries that do not float. Does my hon. Friend agree that, when it comes to shipbuilding, it is the UK Government who are delivering for the sector in Scotland?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. SNP Members are usually only too keen to tell us about what the Scottish Government are doing and how the UK Government should follow suit. That clearly does not apply in the case of shipbuilding, on which the Scottish Government’s record is shameful. It is the UK Government who are delivering for Scotland, not just on shipbuilding but on levelling up, energy security and transport connectivity. We are taking the lead.
The SNP has not built any of the planned replacement ferries announced in its 2012 ferries strategy and, since it came to power, the average lifespan of these lifeline vessels has soared from 17 to 24 years. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Scottish Government need to address this as a matter of urgency?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only are the two overbudget ferries languishing in the yard, but the head of CalMac’s engineering division has revealed that the existing vessels could fail at any time. At the weekend, he said that there are no spare ferries, so stand-ins are deployed from other services when one goes out of action, and that has a knock-on effect on other routes. The ships are so basic
“we do not have time to do deep maintenance.”
It was reported that more than a third of CalMac’s fleet is beyond its 30-year design life, making breakdowns more likely. These are the issues on which the Scottish Government should be concentrating, rather than an unnecessary and unwanted rerun of the independence referendum.
Does the Minister agree with the Minister for the Armed Forces, who went on the record last week to confirm that the record of warship building in Scotland is based on engineering excellence, outstanding quality and the role of higher education in defence manufacturing in Scotland? It is not charity or any kind of gesture politics; it is about skill and ability.
Scotland has a long and proud history of shipbuilding. What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that the biggest threat to future orders is his party’s plan to break up the United Kingdom.
I come from a shipbuilding community and I saw the decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde, but my constituents in Edinburgh West are concerned about building up our industries and creating jobs. Does the Minister agree that moves to improve shipbuilding are far more important than money wasted on vanity projects, ferries that do not work and a referendum that the majority of people in Scotland do not want—[Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear the question. If Members do not want to hear it—[Interruption.] I would not challenge me.
Unfortunately, in Scotland we are used to the SNP shouting down people with whom it does not agree.
Does the Minister agree that the people of Scotland would be far better served by addressing these problems, assisting the UK Government in rebuilding our shipbuilding industry and helping constituents such as mine in Edinburgh West, rather than by wasting £20 million on a referendum on an issue we do not want to discuss again?
Come on, Minister. We have only half an hour. We cannot use it all on one question.
I completely agree with the hon. Lady. Our shipbuilding strategy gives a long-term vision and yards in Scotland and the supply chain confidence to make the investments and deliver the ships, whether for military or civilian use, that we want.