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As I said, John Swinney and I will meet the company tomorrow. I care deeply about the shipbuilding industry and its future, as I know Johann Lamont does. I will work with anybody anywhere to secure the future of an industry that is very important to Scotland both practically and emotionally.
Let me also say that my heart goes out to the people of Portsmouth, because I know that their shipbuilding industry is as important to them as the Clyde’s is to us. The problem that we have is that—as we saw yesterday with the further downsizing of our shipbuilding industry—naval procurement alone, however important, is not enough to secure that future not just for 10 years but for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. That is what I want to do.
On the issue whether the type 26 frigates would be built on the Clyde in an independent Scotland, let me deal with that directly by saying two things. First, what we heard yesterday from BAE Systems and from the Secretary of State for Defence is that the Clyde is the best place to build those ships—end of story. Secondly, the UK Government would have nowhere else to build those ships.
I found something quite interesting this morning in a press release on the Royal Navy website that is headed “Britain and Australia to work together to create possible frigates of the future”. The press release starts by saying:
On a visit to the BAE Systems shipyard in Perth, Australia, Philip Hammond said:
“Areas of potential co-operation include future frigates, with the Royal Navy’s Type 26 design ... the first of many opportunities for future collaboration. In times of budget pressures for all nations, it makes sense to maximise economies of scale and work with our friends to get the best value for money on all sides.”
I ask Johann Lamont, in all seriousness, to explain to me in simple terms why it should be okay for the UK Government to collaborate with a country 10,000 miles away but collaboration between two countries that share the same island would not take place. As the constituency MSP for Govan shipyards, Johann Lamont should be getting behind the shipyard to say that it is the best place to build the type 26 frigates regardless of the outcome of next year’s vote.