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I add my deep regret about yesterday’s jobs announcement. The speculation surrounding those job losses has been deeply unhelpful and has added to the huge amounts of worry for workers in my area of Glasgow and their families.
On reflection, does the Deputy First Minister regret speculating publicly in the press last week that the entire Govan yard could close, thereby adding immeasurably to the worry of the workers there?
If Ruth Davidson, who is a Glasgow MSP, knew anything about the Govan yard or the people who work in it, she would know the level of anxiety—very real anxiety—that existed in that yard last week about potential closure, because it was a real possibility facing the yard. I no longer represent Govan shipyard—that pleasure and privilege now falls to Johann Lamont—but it will always have a special place in my heart and, no matter whether I am an MSP, no matter whom I represent, I will always do everything in my power to stand up for the fine men and women who work in that fantastic shipyard on the River Clyde.
Nicola Sturgeon and Johann Lamont have both said that yesterday was a “bittersweet” moment for shipbuilding in Scotland. I am pleased that, despite the job losses that were announced yesterday, the Clyde has been reaffirmed as the centre for building United Kingdom warships for the Royal Navy.
In the past 24 hours, I have had a number of conversations with BAE Systems and am pleased that it does not want the Clyde yards to remain static. It will make a multimillion pound investment in those sites to upgrade them massively and bring them into what it calls the upper quartile of worldwide shipbuilding, by creating a design and manufacturing centre of excellence on the Clyde. Simply put, it will elevate the yards to shipbuilding’s premier league.
With all the earlier talk of diversification, the truth is that next-generation complex warships are increasingly built by specialist yards, and not by generalists such as the yards that are making commercial vessels to which the Deputy First Minister referred. Without massive upgrades, the Clyde will not have full capability to build the type 26, and the company cannot compete in the marketplace to supply the most advanced vessels to foreign navies. The yards’ long-term future depends on both.
I know that the company is applying for grants from Scottish Enterprise, and it says that it needs support from the Scottish Government as the yards transform. What work is the Scottish Government doing now to ensure that that assistance will be there when it is needed?
As I said in response to Johann Lamont, we will meet BAE Systems directly tomorrow, and we want to speak to it about support for its investment plans at the yards. Scottish Enterprise already works closely with BAE Systems to provide all sorts of appropriate support for the company and for its presence on the Clyde, and that will continue. I understand that BAE has also received regional selective assistance support in the past.
I say clearly on behalf of the Scottish Government that we will give BAE Systems every support that we can that it needs to carry out that investment in the Clyde in order to help to secure the future of the shipyards. That is what we want, and I believe that it is what everyone in the chamber wants, so let us unite around that and ensure that we do everything in our power to ensure that our shipyards have a secure future—not just for the next 10 years or the slightly longer period that work on the type 26 would secure, but for the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years and beyond. That is what I want.