I am proud to speak in the debate.
In 2011, as a consequence of the reorganisation of the boundaries for Scottish Parliament elections, I was elected to represent the area that covers the Govan shipyard, which is a privilege that I know my predecessors Nicola Sturgeon and Gordon Jackson took very seriously. Across the water, Bill Kidd was given the honour of representing the area that includes the Scotstoun yard. On the opening of the Parliament, one of his predecessors—the late Donald Dewar—said:
“In the quiet moments today, we might hear some echoes from the past: the shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards”.
The twin centres of Clyde shipbuilding, and their sister yard in Rosyth, are a source of great pride, not just to those of us who are lucky enough to represent them, but to all of us who have a sense of Scottish history, an interest in our country’s industrial heritage and the desire to create and retain high-skilled, well-paid jobs for our fellow Scots.
I much appreciate Johann Lamont giving me the opportunity to intervene.
Does Johann Lamont think that democracy is an urgent issue for everyone in the world? Would she like to comment on the fact that the United Kingdom Parliament’s representative for Govan has threatened the workers there by saying that if they exercise their democratic right to vote for independence, they will lose their jobs and livelihoods?
Ian Davidson stands second to none in championing the interests of shipyard workers. He has fought to secure jobs in the face of the threat that the commitment of Gil Paterson and his party to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom poses for those workers. Perhaps Gil Paterson and his party should be a little more honest about what their prospectus is.
Those black and white pictures of armies of working-class men flooding in and out of the shipyard gates, bending steel and metal against a backdrop of cranes and docks, and building floating marvels, are iconic images that are integral to the history of Glasgow and Scotland.
Jimmy Reid famously said:
“We don’t only build ships, we build men.”
We only have to listen to two of those great men—Sir Alex Ferguson and Billy Connolly—to get a sense of the pride that was felt about those workplaces and the special people who made up the workforce. The fact that we in Scotland possess those amazing skills and expertise, which were once the envy of the world, is a source of great pride to all of us.
Sadly, our competitors in other countries did not just sit back and admire what we did in Scotland and across the UK; they, too, learned how to build such amazing ships. They invested in their industries and found any competitive edge that they could to take us on at that game.
At one point in the early 1900s, the Clyde built one fifth of the world’s ships and, at its peak, shipbuilding in Scotland employed 100,000 people. Scotland still has a proud shipbuilding industry, but it is not what it once was—we know that. The days of thousands of young men leaving school and walking into an apprenticeship in the shipyards the very next day have gone, yet the industry is still a key one for Scotland. It provides not just thousands of jobs but, with them, good wages and high skills to boot.
The decision to go ahead with the aircraft carriers, ordered by a Labour Prime Minister from Fife, may have been viewed as controversial in some quarters, but it was not viewed as such by the thousands of men and women who set about that mammoth project in the knowledge that it would provide for their families in the coming years. It was a lifeline for those workers, but it was a project that had a clear end date and, sadly, that end date is close. There will no longer be enough work on the Clyde to sustain the workforce at its present capacity. The fact that the 800 workers affected knew that this day would come makes it no less of a blow to them and to our shipbuilding industry.
In responding to the news from the Secretary of State for Defence earlier this month, the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said much that I agree with. Yes, we are all saddened for the proud shipbuilders in Portsmouth, and we remember the solidarity that exists across the workforce, wherever it is based. It is beyond argument that there has been a steady decline in our shipbuilding industry over a long number of years, which should worry us all. I, too, am concerned about our reliance on naval contracts and the uncertainty that comes from the gaps in those order books.
In the context of that last point about the decline in shipbuilding jobs, does Johann Lamont believe the promises to make the peace dividend pay for jobs in Scotland through the ending of the cold war, that Trident is useful Government expenditure and that both are missed opportunities in terms of safeguarding shipbuilding jobs?
I am not clear what point the minister is making.
We must recognise something about which the Government has done nothing. It spoke about diversification only last week, after the crisis emerged, rather than doing the work of Government in the long period beforehand.
Nicola Sturgeon has my full support in exploring any diversification routes that we can explore to move on from dependence on the Ministry of Defence for thousands of jobs, although it appears that BAE Systems is an obstacle to that. It does a particular kind of job and wants to continue doing it.
Perhaps we could have done more. We all knew that this day would come. Perhaps we should have come together across parties and Governments long before now and attempted to map a long-term future for our shipbuilding industry. However, it is not too late. We stand ready to engage in that debate, to learn from our neighbours the way that they once learned from us, to help to manage any change and to exploit future opportunities for the world-class skills and facilities that we have on the Clyde, at Rosyth and in our defence industries.
If Germany and our other neighbours in Europe can compete at the high end with Korea and China, let us understand what we have to do. Let us get round the table with the United Kingdom Government, the management and the trade unions and work together to save our shipyards. We can call it a summit, a commission, a task force or whatever, but it will have my full support and that of the Scottish Labour Party.
However, we must recognise that any change cannot and will not happen overnight. A diversification plan will take many years and much investment to implement. Scotland will not become a world leader in shipbuilding by sheer will alone or because the Scottish National Party says so.
If we are to have a future in shipbuilding, it will be possible only if we retain the skills and capacity that we currently have in Scotland. If the workers leave the shipyard gate with no prospect of returning anytime soon, the skills that have been passed down the generations will be lost with them. There will be no one to teach the next generation how Scots built ships. The one thing that we have—our skills—will be lost.
If we are to retain those skills, we need to keep the jobs on the Clyde and, no matter how inconvenient it is for some, there is only one game in town: our only option for bridging the gap between the carrier project that kept Govan and Scotstoun open and any future plans for shipbuilding is naval contracts. Members should make no mistake: if naval contracts dry up, the skills and capacity on the Clyde will go with them and the shipbuilding industry will be lost to Scotland. No one in the chamber would welcome that prospect.
There is a serious prospect of more naval contracts coming to the Clyde. Philip Hammond has announced three ocean patrol vehicles and, of course, the big prize—type 26 frigates. Despite the conspiracy theorists, he has also insisted that the Clyde is the best place in the United Kingdom to build those ships. On commercial grounds, there is no contest.
There is now only one barrier to the future of Scottish shipbuilding: the referendum on Scottish independence. Let us be absolutely clear: complex warships such as the type 26 frigates will not be built in an independent Scotland. Common sense tells us that Governments of any stripe will ensure that high-end defence projects are built within their own territories.
The exemption applies precisely because we are inside the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Members cannot wish that away. The Clyde is the best place inside the United Kingdom but, if we are not in the United Kingdom, the contract will not be let to an independent Scotland. [Interruption.]
I have acknowledged Nicola Sturgeon’s work with, and commitment to, the shipyards for which she once acted and I accept that she has a good understanding of the challenges that the industry faces, so I am at a loss to understand some of the wild misrepresentations that she has offered over the past few weeks.
Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Clyde is the only place where we can build these ships now. Let us put aside the fact that she argued her case even when Portsmouth was still open, but she knows that the UK Government has made it clear that the recent decision is reversible and that Portsmouth could be fired up in plenty of time to take on the work if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom.
Nicola Sturgeon has said that the UK Government currently orders warships from Korea and collaborates with Australia on defence projects. The UK Government ordered a tanker from Korea and worked with the Australians on design work. That lack of candour and honesty has been the hallmark of the SNP’s approach to the referendum. The SNP tells us that there are no consequences and no downside to a yes vote, even when it comes to people’s jobs.
Listen to the men who work in the industry. We know what you think. You should understand what the people in the shipyards think.
Raymond Duguid of Rosyth said:
“If Scotland was independent, no one in Scotland could bid to build type 26. So that would, yes, decimate the industry”—
Duncan McPhee of Scotstoun said:
“we would be greatly reduced or completely finished as a shipbuilding industry”.
John Wall of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has said that, to his mind, there is no way on God’s earth that under an independent Scotland we will any longer be in the fight. Eric McLeod, GMB convener at Babcock Marine Rosyth, said:
“No UK Ministry of Defence means no more shipbuilding jobs in Scotland.”
As Donald Dewar foretold, we have heard the shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards, and it is time that the Scottish Government listened. The shipyard workers have spoken out to protect their industry. SNP members may condemn me, but they ought to listen to what these men have to say about the consequences of next year’s vote.
When people come to vote on 18 September next year, they will do so for many reasons and this may be a factor. I suspect that there are people on the Government benches who care about the shipbuilding industry but privately accept that the closure of the shipyards would happen and is a price worth paying in order for Scotland to be independent. However, the least that they can and should do is to be honest with the people whom they represent about the consequences of such a decision.
Jobs on the Clyde are not the reason why I support the United Kingdom. I believe that our argument is far deeper and richer. However, I have to say in all seriousness that, had I been a nationalist over these past few weeks, I am sure that I would have at least paused for reflection on whether my commitment to my political project would come at the cost of people’s jobs. At least be honest and tell them, “You may lose these shipbuilding jobs, but it is a price worth paying for Scotland to be separate”—
The fact of the matter is that, in this debate, the people within the industry tell us the consequences and the people who support independence tell us that we should not listen to those voices in the industry. That is unacceptable. If people cannot speak truth to power, what is the point of this Parliament and what is the point of trade unionists who are committed to their industry saying what they believe to be the consequences?
Of course, there may be good things about independence and people are entitled to their view—although I am certain that there is a downside—but how can we have a real debate about our country’s future in this climate when we are not even permitted to give voice to those who understand the industry, who understand the consequences and who are asking those who support independence to explain what they would do instead? The people of Scotland deserve honesty. The people who earn their living in the shipyards deserve honesty about their future. Let us hope that we can have some honesty from the Government today.
That the Parliament regrets BAE System’s announcement that it intends to cut 1,775 jobs across its UK shipyards and supports all efforts to minimise compulsory redundancies and to redeploy people where possible; welcomes, however, the confirmation by BAE Systems that the Clyde is its preferred UK location for the construction of the future Type 26 global combat ship; notes that Scotland plays a significant role in the UK, European and worldwide defence industries, including hosting the largest defence electronics manufacturing site in the UK in addition to its shipbuilding but notes the benefit to this industry of UK defence contracts, and therefore considers that the best way to safeguard the future of Scotland’s defence manufacturing industry is to remain in the UK.
Before I call the minister to speak, I remind the chamber that although debates can be robust and members can have opinions on all sides of them, they must be conducted with respect and members must respect each other across the chamber. I hope that the debate will continue now in that fashion—[Interruption.] Order, please.
I hope that the debate will continue in that fashion for the rest of the afternoon.
I have just made the point to the chamber that members must be respectful of each other. That is what it says in the standing orders, so we should all reflect on that for the rest of the debate.
Order, please. I have made the point that members should be respectful of each other, which is what it says in the standing orders. I now expect the debate to continue in that fashion.
It is perhaps worth remembering that this debate takes place against the background of the anxiety and insecurity of 835 people who are set to lose their jobs and livelihoods at Govan, Scotstoun, Rosyth and Filton, and of the 1,110 workers, including 170 agency workers, who do not feature in Johann Lamont’s motion, whose jobs are to be lost at Portsmouth.
No, I will not.
Our thoughts are with all those workers; it is worth taking time to think about that. Many of those workers and, indeed, their trade unions have asked—some have even pleaded—that their plight not be used as a political football. However, only a fortnight later we have this motion from Johann Lamont.
It is also worth saying that her deputy leader said:
“Let’s not make this a constitutional issue.”
Worse still, on the very day that the announcement was made, Johann Lamont rushed on to the radio to blurt out:
“It’s self-evident this decision is part of the union dividend.”
She thinks that the 1,110 jobs and the 835 jobs that are being lost are part of the union dividend. It is Johann Lamont’s obsession with Westminster control over these affairs and her proposition that everything is better under Westminster that I seek to challenge today.
Johann Lamont saw the job loss news as her latest opportunity to bang the drum for Westminster control over such decisions, but we should contrast that with the approach that has been taken by the Scottish Government. The focus of John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon and the First Minister has been on working with the trade unions, the workforce and the management to safeguard as many jobs as possible, to help place those who need them into new jobs and to support the workforce. So, is Johann Lamont right that the UK is good for defence jobs?
Thank you, Presiding Officer. The minister draws attention to the efforts of the Scottish Government to protect employment. Can he indicate to the chamber why there is no employment minister, never mind any of the ministers that he mentioned, even present in the chamber for the debate? Why is the transport minister responding to this debate about employment in my region?
That is not a point of order.
Over recent weeks I have noticed that when members from all sides of the chamber have not been able to get interventions on speeches, they have been making points of order in the middle of speeches. That is not particularly respectful of their fellow members.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
So, is Johann Lamont right that the UK is good for defence jobs? To test that proposition, I will look at three particular projects. First, on the two aircraft carriers that Johann Lamont mentioned, only one will be operational and that will be nearly a decade after the UK last had aircraft carriers; the other will be held on what is called extended readiness but most of us would call being mothballed. The taxpayer was told by the Labour Party that the budget for both aircraft carriers was £3.6 billion. In the technical language that is common to Philip Hammond, that figure has been rebaselined; to the rest of us that means that the budget has been blown out the water, because it is now £6.2 billion for the two aircraft carriers.
No, I will not. I think that I have been delayed enough already.
UK defence procurement is a shambles.
Let us look at the Nimrod MRA4 project, costing up to £3.6 billion. The money paid was taken over by a £0.5 million commission. Therefore, there was £3.6 billion for the cost of the Nimrods and £0.5 million for a commission to scrap the Nimrods, and for that we got scrap value of £1 million. So there was a cost of £3.6 billion, but we have no Nimrod aircraft to show for it. We also had 100 civilian job losses in relation to that project. UK defence procurement is a mess and is losing us jobs.
“The lunatics have taken over the asylum ... The decision ... is a betrayal of the workers”.
UK defence procurement is not good for workers in Scotland.
Let us take the Labour Party’s £150 million award of a contract for two ships at Swan Hunter in 2000. They finally cost more than twice as much as they were intended to cost—£342 million—were years late and had to be moved from Swan Hunter to the Clyde. One of the ships, the RFA Largs Bay, was then sold to Australia for £65 million after only four years in service. UK defence procurement is a shambles and it is costing jobs.
Nicola Sturgeon and I agreed that sustaining jobs on the Clyde was a good thing. This minister seems to be suggesting that it was a bad thing and that, if we lose the jobs in a year’s time, the decision was a bad thing anyway. Will he clarify whether he thinks that the decision on the Clyde was a good thing, notwithstanding—I have talked about this on many occasions—the direct consequences and impact on those people who have lost their jobs?
Inventing things that I have said is probably not the best way for the member to advance her argument. I have never said that it was a bad thing in relation to the job losses on the Clyde.
Our vision for the defence industry and, within that, the shipbuilding industry in Scotland, stands in stark contrast to the UK’s record of massive cost overruns, projects delivered years late—and sometimes not delivered at all—and the badly managed decline of jobs.
To come back to Johann Lamont’s point, in less than 20 years the UK has seen Scotland’s shipbuilding workforce decline by 35 per cent. That is some union dividend, supported by the Labour Party.
For our part, we would take the missed opportunities to diversify. Johann Lamont says that she does not understand the point about diversification. She may remember the commitments that her own party gave at the end of the cold war to diversify defence jobs. That never happened.
The cost of Trident, at £100 billion, could much more properly be spent on traditional defence procurement to the benefit of jobs in Scotland.
An independent Scotland will not require £6.2 billion aircraft carriers. However, we will need to address the fact that not a single major Royal Navy surface vessel is in Scotland at this time. We have a coastline longer than India’s, and the UK has left Scotland very poorly protected.
BAE has recognised the unique skills of the workforce on the Clyde and at Scotstoun, and we will work with the company to safeguard and build upon that expertise. Babcock is already diversifying into renewables. Thales, another company in Johann Lamont’s constituency, is already working with the Scottish Government on transport projects. We can do better than the UK Government has done.
The Scottish Government is working hard to support the industry in identifying new markets and capitalising on our real strengths in highly advanced, complex warship design and fabrication. We are currently determining our defence procurement needs. Decisions on those, alongside support for international trade, will support the long-term future of the yards.
I know that hundreds of BAE staff are working with Babcock at Rosyth to complete the assembly programme for the aircraft carriers. Those companies are hugely important to the Scottish economy.
I have lost a lot of time already.
As well as diversification, we need to see a change in defence technologies, driven by new forms of combat that have led to changes in product design and manufacture across the defence industry. I have mentioned Thales; I could also mention Selex ES.
We in the Government have faith in the ingenuity and expertise of defence workers in Scotland. Johann Lamont says that the big threat to that is the referendum. On that point, we perhaps agree: the referendum to take the UK out of the European Union is a far greater threat to defence jobs in Scotland than any referendum on Scotland’s independence. The uncertainty of the EU referendum is surely a concern, especially for companies such as Thales and Selex ES, which are headquartered in Europe. We have had no mention of that from the Labour Party.
In relation to the type 26 contract, the approach of the no campaign seems to be totally different from the approach of the Scottish Government.
The no campaign wants to put the brakes on the type 26 contract coming to the Clyde in the event of a yes vote, but they are not ABS—anti-lock braking system—brakes, although it does want to put an ABS twist on this: for it, ABS means anywhere but Scotland, and it is happy for the UK to consider working collaboratively with Australia, India, Canada Turkey and the United States.
Willie Rennie rose—
Johann Lamont now supports the most sensitive and dangerous piece of defence equipment—Clyde nuclear weapons—being procured from, leased from and owned by a foreign power. She will not trust the same workers who are working on these contracts now to work on them after Scotland votes for independence. Scottish workers are currently building these UK warships. They have shown their ability over many years. Despite what Johann Lamont says, according to Philip Dunne, the UK defence minister, the decision was taken on business grounds and had nothing to do with the referendum. That is why the business came to Scotland in the first place.
What we have now seen, of course, is Johann Lamont’s local MP, Ian Davidson, dreaming up and advocating a break clause to deny the yards in his own constituency the type 26 contracts should Scotland decide to vote for independence in what Jamie Webster calls a “democratic vote”.
No, I cannot.
“If Scotland were to vote Yes ... you would think Portsmouth would be well placed in that circumstance.”
Therefore, the Secretary of State for Scotland is promoting Portsmouth as the place that should get the type 26 contracts. I know that Alistair Carmichael got his job in a hurry, but surely he should have checked his job description first. His job is to promote Scotland in the Cabinet, not promote the Cabinet in Scotland. He should defend those Scottish jobs, and it is a disgrace that he has not done so.
At one stage, Johann Lamont said that we should get round the table and work together. I wrote to her on 25 June to ask her to work with me to provide the reassurances that are required to ensure that the type 26 contract came to Govan, but she never even bothered to respond. That shows her commitment to those jobs.
I will conclude with a quote about the type 26 contract from the union convener of the Govan yard, Jamie Webster. He said that what will happen will be the result of a “democratic vote” and that, in that context, everybody in Scotland,
“every ... politician of every section” should work “to hell and back” to safeguard the jobs at Govan and on the Clyde. I am one politician who will, after a yes vote, work to ensure that those jobs stay on the Clyde, and I think that every other politician in the Scottish Parliament should do the same.
I move amendment S4M-08348.3, to leave out from “but notes” to end and insert:
“; notes that independence will bring new opportunities for this industry, as for others, with naval procurement a key part of the future of Scotland’s shipyards, and further notes that freeing Scotland’s share of the estimated £100 billion lifetime cost of the Trident replacement programme would widen the choices that could be made to support increased diversification and take action to boost exports.”
I welcome the opportunity to debate the defence industry in Scotland.
The Scottish defence industry is one of our highest-value industry sectors. It employs nearly 40,000 people and is underpinned by the world’s fourth-largest defence budget—that of the Ministry of Defence. In my region of Mid Scotland and Fife, we have great companies such as Raytheon Systems in Glenrothes, which employs more than 500 people, and Rolls-Royce, which has a presence in Dunfermline. Elsewhere in Scotland, Vector Aerospace is in Perth, there is Babcock in Rosyth, which works on aircraft carriers, and there are great companies such as Selex ES, Thales, QinetiQ and, of course, BAE Systems on the Clyde. All those companies rely on exporting, of course, but they are underpinned by UK domestic contracts from the Ministry of Defence, and they are key components of the Scottish economy. The jobs that they support are often well paid, highly skilled and much sought after, and we should be very concerned about anything that threatens them.
Is the member concerned in any way that we should be concentrating on defence work for the Clyde when we know that the Ministry of Defence will cut back the size of the navy even more?
Margo MacDonald makes a perfectly fair point about the long-term future prospects for the Clyde, and Johann Lamont touched very effectively on that in her speech in talking about the need to diversify in the long term. However, we need to deal with what is happening in the next two, five and 10 years, of course, which is why the type 26 frigate contracts will be so important.
No. I need to make some progress, if I can.
The new development that the debate touches on is BAE’s announcement of job cuts. Keith Brown was entirely right to concentrate on the fact that that is very bad news for people in Portsmouth, and it is bad news for many of those who are employed in Govan, but it means that Govan will have a future, and we should welcome that. We should also welcome the fact that the UK Government has proactively brought forward three new offshore patrol vessels to fill the gap in work between the completion of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and the new frigates. That point is covered in my amendment.
The key issue in the debate is what will happen if there is a yes vote in the referendum. The simple fact is that, since the second world war, no UK Government has ever had a complex warship built in any foreign country. That is the answer to Willie Rennie’s question, which the minister could not bring himself to answer. If Scotland votes yes, post the referendum Scotland will be a foreign country, and we know that the contracts for those frigates will not be signed until after September next year.
Does the member accept that it was not the Government but BAE Systems that made the decision, and that it will have taken the future of Scotland, whatever it will be, into account?
Of course it was BAE Systems that made the decision, but the UK Government will make the final decision on where the contracts are placed. Why would the UK Government break with convention and place the contracts anywhere outwith its own home country?
Let me pose a question to members on the SNP benches. If we imagine what would happen in an independent country, would the Government of an independent Scotland with a shipbuilding capacity ever place a warship contract outwith Scotland? No—it is utterly inconceivable that that would ever happen.
If Keith Brown was the minister for defence procurement, can we imagine him coming to this chamber and announcing that a warship was to be built somewhere other than Scotland and that Scottish jobs would be lost? That would never happen in a million years, so why would it happen in the rest of the UK post independence?
I am not giving way. I have made that clear.
Can members imagine the political reaction in the House of Commons if the Secretary of State for Defence got up and said, “We’re going to place these contracts in a foreign country”? Can members imagine the reaction from the representatives of Portsmouth and elsewhere? It is utterly inconceivable. [Interruption.]
I am sure that, in this debate, we will hear about the situation in Norway. We heard about it from the Deputy First Minister the other week. The most advanced frigate in the Norwegian navy is the Nansen-class frigate, which is currently being built in Spain under a €2.4 billion contract. It is true that Norway builds ships for the offshore oil industry, but globally new ship orders in 2012 were at their lowest level since 1998 and it is a difficult, competitive market.
We should be looking to diversify, but we should not underestimate how difficult that will be when we see commercial vessels that are required in Scotland today being built in the far east and elsewhere. Of course, if we are interested in diversification, the real question is why we did not start before now. Why did the Scottish Government not make efforts before today to start this very important work with a task force?
It is telling that, in his speech and his amendment to the motion, Mr Brown fell back on that old stalwart that is used whenever the SNP is in trouble and referenced Trident. Trident money is being spent again. According to my calculations, it has already been spent 20 times, but today we have it being spent for the 21st time, this time on defence procurement. What Mr Brown forgets is that Trident already supports jobs in Scotland and, if he scrapped that programme, those jobs would be lost.
Despite the protestations from the SNP benches, it is absolutely clear that the future of Govan is threatened by independence. Those jobs will be under threat if people vote yes in the referendum in September next year. That is why I support the Labour motion and my amendment.
I move amendment S4M-08348.1, to insert after “Type 26 global combat ship”:
“; welcomes the announcement by the UK Government that three new offshore patrol vessels will be built in Scotland, sustaining the workforce between the completion of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and the new generation of frigates, securing the vital skills needed to build the UK’s future warships”.
My heart goes out to all those workers who have lost their jobs—I am thinking particularly of those in Govan, Scotstoun, Rosyth and of course Portsmouth—and notwithstanding that we are currently part of the United Kingdom it is right and proper that the Scottish Government’s first priority will be the workers who face redundancy in Scotland. There will therefore be a focus on the support of the partnership action for continuing employment programme in helping those skilled workers to find alternative employment.
Turning to the Labour motion, I find it encouraging that there is recognition that Scotland’s defence industry already plays a significant role not just at the UK level but further afield at the European level and indeed globally. To what can we ascribe that success? I submit that it is due to the skills of the workforce on the Clyde, at Rosyth and in our many electronic and high-tech defence companies, many of which Murdo Fraser listed. That has ensured that our industries have had an important role to play and will continue to have an important role to play firth of our borders.
As far as the Clyde yards are concerned, the terms of the BAE press release of 6 November are worth noting. I quote:
The press release went on to say:
“the Company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Glasgow with investments in facilities to create a world-class capability, positioning it to deliver an affordable Type 26 programme for the Royal Navy.”
That vote of confidence in the Clyde was based not on sentiment but on hard commercial considerations, which reflect the excellence and significant experience of the workforce and the principal location of the key design team of naval architects and naval engineers. It is clear that such a rationale will determine where the type 26 ships are built.
On “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday 10 November, no less an authority than the chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, confirmed that the Westminster Government
“will go and get our ships in the place where it makes the most sense”.
He went on to say that the BAE decision was
“very much a matter of a business rationalisation. In terms of raw business sense, it makes sense that the place where they have the greatest capacity and the best depth of skills, which is on the Clyde, that’s driven by a business decision.”
Will the member explain why she quotes so extensively from that person but chooses to ignore the words of the conveners in Scotstoun, Govan and Rosyth, who are telling her that the vote next year will have consequences for jobs on the Clyde? Why does not the member listen to the conveners? She is prepared to quote a man who happens to agree with her.
What the chief of the defence staff said is not irrelevant in the context of the debate. However, I remind the member that Jamie Webster said:
“If the situation is that Scottish people by democratic vote, vote Yes, I would expect, no sorry, demand, that every single politician of every section supports us to hell and back”.
I do not think that it could be made any clearer than the convener of the Govan shipyard union made it.
We should also consider what the UK Secretary of State for Defence did not say. When he announced the closure of the Portsmouth shipbuilding facility, he refused to contemplate the cancellation of the type 26 orders in the Clyde in the event of a yes vote next year, although he was repeatedly asked to do so.
There we have it. The ships will be built where it makes the most sense to do so. That is the key political message that is coming from the UK Secretary of State for Defence and the chief of the defence staff, and it is the only conclusion that makes commercial sense. Moreover, the Clyde will be the only place in these isles that has the capacity to build large warships.
I am sorry, I must make progress.
On the procurement rules, article 346 is quite clear in providing that
“any Member State may take such measures as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security”, in the context of military procurement, as defined. Therefore, if the UK Government considered it necessary for the protection of its essential security interests to award a contract to BAE, and BAE in turn could complete the contract where it was most economically advantageous to do so, there would be absolutely no restriction in European Union law in that regard. That has been confirmed by Andrew Murrison, the Westminster Minister for International Security Strategy.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
On the basis of the evidence that is before us, we must conclude that decisions are made on the basis of hard commercial facts and what is in the interests of the rest of the UK. Where is the expertise? It is on the Clyde. This is a no-brainer. It is clear from an examination of the facts that naval procurement in Scotland will continue and that the type 26 ships will indeed be built on the Clyde.
What are the Scots to believe? Should they believe logical argument or the Labour Party’s project fear? I know where I put my faith—in the good sense of the people of Scotland.
The announcement was no surprise. People who are aware of the ebbs and flows of the defence sector and the warship sector were aware that the day was coming. The type 26 ships and the offshore patrol vessels were never going to make up for the huge activity that there was at the height of construction of the aircraft carriers and type 45 destroyers. However, although the announcement was not a surprise it has been hard for the workers involved.
The real question is why it has taken such an event for the Government to wake up to the need to diversify. My constituency covers the Rosyth dockyard, as did my previous Westminster seat, and I have been asking questions about diversification for years. Why has the Scottish Government not done that for the Clyde? A crisis seems to be required before this Government takes any action at all.
SNP members are making a brave attempt today, but sovereign capability has been an established principle in the Ministry of Defence and the UK Government—
Not just now.
That has been the case since the second world war, and we have not built any warships outside the UK. The vessels that went to Korea were fuel tankers, not warships, and they were built on a commercial contract.
Not just now.
We have protected land-war vehicles, warships, and network-enabled capability and fixed-wing aircraft. That is regarded as sovereign capability. Why do we think that the SNP will, just because it says so, change decades of UK Government policy?
The yards in Portsmouth will not be closed—
I refer Willie Rennie to the comments from the Liberal Democrat leader of Portsmouth City Council, who said in March 2012 that if a decision was not taken within the next year the skills would have gone.
The jobs cannot go to Portsmouth—your own Lib Dem leader is saying that. Do you not have faith in the Scottish workers on the Clyde to take on the job, or do you think that we should pay an expensive premium to go elsewhere?
I am sure that the minister has read the statement in detail and discussed it with Philip Hammond. He will know that the orders for the type 26 frigates will not be placed, and the Portsmouth yard will not close, until after the referendum. That is the reality.
Members should look at Barrow, where the keep Barrow afloat campaign has been established. It is arguing that, in addition to the submarines, a shipyard capability should be constructed in Barrow. It has the ability to do so, but everybody else seems to ignore that reality.
We are hearing about localisation and where ships will or will not be built. Willie Rennie says that there is an inconsistency between the SNP’s demands to build British warships at the same time as endorsing the Scottish Global Forum’s report “Securing the Nation—Defending an Independent Scotland”, which he says
“recommends buying anything but British”.
However, we now have a letter that says:
“It is ... important to observe the conclusions that you appear to have drawn from our work are not an accurate reflection of our findings.”
I thank Chic Brodie for taking up half of my speech time.
If Mr Brodie looks at the report in detail, he will see that it refers to Danish, New Zealand, Irish and German class vessels, and the Norwegian navy. The report talks about anything but British warships, and it has been endorsed by the SNP. One week the SNP is saying, “Let’s buy British”, and the next it says, “Let’s buy anything but British.” Chic Brodie should read the report more carefully.
What we have here is a range of contradictions. The SNP condemns British foreign policy on numerous occasions but demands to build the British Government’s warships and all its vehicles, just as it campaigned for the Trident refit facility to be constructed in Rosyth in my constituency. The SNP wants those weapons of mass destruction—as it would call them—to be in tip-top condition, ready for war at any time, because it is prepared to put its principles to one side in such cases. That is the contradiction that we face with the SNP. It says, “We could be like Norway”, but it opposes Norway’s policy on the EU, which subjects Britain to the EU competition rules.
In 2005, Nicola Sturgeon told us that the fisheries protection vessels should be reclassed as warships so that they can be built in this country, but the SNP expects the UK Government to do the exact opposite. Is the SNP suggesting that the type 45 destroyers or the type 26 combat ships should be reclassed as fishing vessels in the future? Is that the kind of contorted logic and the kind of ministry of defence that we could expect in an independent Scotland?
The reality is that the SNP has been found wanting on the shipyards. It does not understand how British foreign policy and defence policy have been developed over decades.
Although it is undoubtedly welcome that BAE Systems has chosen the Clyde for the construction of the future type 26 combat ships, we should be in no doubt that that work will materialise in Govan and Scotstoun only if they, like the rest of Scotland, remain part of the UK or if the white paper tells us next week that an independent Scotland will see massive investment on a similar scale to the UK’s future naval procurement for the newly created Scottish navy.
Somehow I doubt that we can expect that, so the reality we face is that Scottish independence will put at risk the Scottish defence industry and with it, the wider Scottish manufacturing sector. Before the scaremongering klaxon sounds, let me explain why the defence sector is so important to the wider manufacturing sector.
When I was a welder during the 1980s and 1990s, engineering in Scotland was going through a very difficult period. If we were not losing whole companies such as Caterpillar, Cummings, Findlay’s and many others, we were seeing downsizing on a massive scale. Skilled tradesmen in Lanarkshire had to travel further afield to the oil-rig manufacturing yards or to defence contractors on the Clyde or at Rosyth in order not simply to find work but to retain their skills.
Recently, I was in discussion with union representatives at a major manufacturing company in my constituency, which has undergone a very difficult period of rationalisation, redundancy and short-time working. The unions expressed concern that many tradesmen had left that company rather than trying to continue to eke out a living under the financial constraints that were inflicted on them by the firm’s circumstances. Those welders, platers and electricians were looking for some stability and they saw it in the shipyards, where defence work is being carried out at present and could be carried out in the future. Why then, when up to 90 per cent of the orders that are received by Scotland’s shipbuilding industry are from the MOD, would the SNP want to introduce a barrier to that trade and put at risk the job prospects of so many highly skilled workers?
Lodging an amendment that raises the issue of Trident, while making the SNP back benchers happy, does nothing to address the reality facing workers in the defence industry in Scotland. Academics have clearly said that as many as 16,000 defence jobs would be affected by independence, including those on the Clyde and at Rosyth, and yet the Government seeks to deflect attention away from that by throwing in an issue on which even it cannot agree any longer but which suits its purposes this afternoon.
Also, the SNP blithely promotes the idea that Scottish shipyards could be used to build submarines but rather than provide a well-considered answer to diversification, that idea merely illustrates the SNP’s lack of knowledge about the defence sector and shipbuilding. Although the Motherwell Bridgeworks company benefited from large contracts in the 1980s to build submarine hulls, not only has that work gone but the factory itself is now a housing estate. That company had the highest level of coded welders in Scotland at that time, as the skills that were required to build submarine hulls were so extensive. The shipbuilding workforce in Scotland does not currently have the specialist skills that are needed to build submarines. That is a sad reflection—it is an indictment—but it is a fact. In the longer term, such work could lead to the creation of good jobs, but acquiring those skills would be a lengthy and costly process; it would not be a short-term solution to the adverse impact of losing major defence contracts due to Scotland becoming independent.
That is why people who know a bit about these things, such as John Dolan, the GMB convener at Scotstoun, are not just sceptical about the SNP’s defence contracting plans, but scathing about them. As John Dolan rightly points out:
“if Scotland votes yes, we will not be building ships for the UK Government”.
That is simply a fact, and yet, according to Nicola Sturgeon, as John Dolan went on to point out,
“we're the only shipbuilders capable of doing the work.”
Clearly, Nicola Sturgeon has never heard of an organisation called the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, which brings together the workforces of all the shipbuilding sites across the UK. It has 1.2 million members. That hardly suggests that there is no other place in the United Kingdom that can build ships. The very existence of those shipyards means that Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that there is nowhere else for the work to go is either ill informed or deliberately misleading. The SNP needs to stop playing with people’s livelihoods in that way. It is far too important.
Next week, we expect the much-heralded white paper from the Scottish Government. Obviously, that will be after the media get hold of it first, as it will not be for the Parliament to have its place recognised. However, we will supposedly learn what we can expect in an independent Scotland. We will be expected to believe in what the white paper contains, because the Government says it is so. They are the Government’s policies, and the white paper will tell us how things will be. When the UK Government and the UK-wide political parties state their policies, they are simply dismissed and denied if they do not sit with the SNP’s view of the world. When Whitehall states that, post independence, the rest of the UK would not award certain defence contracts to Scotland, just as it will not presently give them to foreign countries, we are told not to believe that. Not only will the white paper tell us what Scotland will do; it seems that it will also tell us what Scotland will tell other countries to do. That is not good enough for the workers on the Clyde. It is not good enough for the defence industry in Scotland. That is why we should support the Labour motion.
Members might be rather sceptical about the idea, but there has been substantial consensus on some important things in the debate. The Labour motion mentions the skills of people in Scotland who are employed in the defence industries, and that aspect has attracted unanimity across the chamber. We have spoken about the need to consider diversification, and a recognition has been shared in speeches from across the chamber that relying simply and forever on defence alone is unlikely to be good enough.
Many of the issues that we are debating today are very far from new. I refer in particular to a decision that the UK Cabinet made on 19 May 1920 in relation to diversification in the defence industry. The Cabinet gave the Government’s own Woolwich arsenal permission to take on private work, because the defence industry was no longer sufficient to keep employment there at its previous level. The Government paid off 1,500 workers—which might sound familiar—and it sought to diversify the factories concerned.
We have heard references to sovereign capability, specifically by Willie Rennie and indirectly, albeit without using those words, by Murdo Fraser, as well as by Michael McMahon. Let us examine the reality of the record. I start with the Fairey Rotodyne, which was an innovative UK project to build new vertical take-off bulk-carrying transport. Ultimately, that project was cancelled in 1962 by the UK Government. What did it buy instead? It bought Boeing Chinooks.
Willie Rennie rose—
I have lots more. I might come to Willie Rennie later.
Those Chinooks were to be deployed on the front line. Willie Rennie spoke about fixed-wing aircraft, and I will come to those as well, so he need not worry.
The Blue Streak missile was to be the missile to carry the independent nuclear deterrent for the UK. That proved to be unsupported by the Government of the day, and we now buy the missiles—rather, we lease them—from the United States, and we are not allowed to launch them against anyone without getting the codes enabling us to do so on each specific occasion. Sovereign capability? I doubt it.
Let me also mention the TSR-2, a fixed-wing aircraft that led the way in technology and capability. Once again, it was cancelled in the 1960s by the UK Government, which sought to buy American F-111s instead—although ultimately, of course, that is not what it bought. Incidentally, until it fell out of use 10 years ago, the F-111 had the unenviable nickname of “The Widowmaker”, which it had been given by the Luftwaffe and the United States air force. That was the aircraft that the UK Government wished to operate.
Finally, of course, there is the Harrier jump-jet, which was a gem and a piece of leading edge technology. It is no longer manufactured here but is bought from elsewhere by the UK Government.
Mr Stevenson might be educating us about various items of equipment, but I have to point out that no one has ever said that all equipment must be bought in-country. The Labour Government’s defence industry strategy and the defence and security policy that has been developed under the current UK Government have determined what the sovereign capability is, and it is the four areas that I identified in my speech.
I invite the member to examine the Official Report after the debate because he will find that he very specifically linked sovereign capability to fixed-wing aircraft such as the TSR-2, the Harrier GR5A and so on. It is absolutely clear that sovereign capability does not determine the purchasing decisions of the MOD and the UK Government; it all comes down to the best place to get the best equipment, and Scotland will remain the best place to get much of the equipment that the UK Government and indeed Scotland will require in future.
The Scottish defence industry is a feisty industry full of feisty people. We have heard quotes from a wide range of them, including the MOD itself and the workers whose voices must be heard in this debate. Those people have skills; indeed, I find it interesting that Michael McMahon chose to talk about Motherwell Bridge and how in a short space of time after it was closed down the same skills dissipated and could not be reconstituted. My friends in Portsmouth know that all too well in advance of the same fate being visited upon them. They certainly will not be in the same place that Scotland will be, whether under independence or not, to support the orders that there are.
I welcome this opportunity to take part in a real debate on matters that affect people on the ground in Scotland. The motion notes with regret the job losses on the Clyde, mentions the importance of the sustainability of the shipbuilding industry and rightly points out the dangers of independence.
This is the kind of debate that the Parliament should be having, but the reality is that in recent times the SNP Government has not been interested in bringing forward proper debates. We had a two-and-a-half hour debate looking forward to a golf tournament at a time when it was exposed that £30 million had been lost on the abandoned Glasgow airport rail link project. Next week, more public money will be wasted when a white paper is published in Glasgow instead of being introduced in its rightful place in this Parliament. This is an important debate, because it deals with real issues.
We must look at the benefits to Scotland’s shipbuilding industry of operating in the UK market. After all, a third of the UK’s shipbuilding jobs, including 3,000 on the Clyde and 2,000 at Rosyth, have been allocated to Scotland, and Scotland benefits from having 50,000 jobs in the defence industry. It is therefore naive to think that voting for independence will not undermine those jobs and industries.
The reality is that we would be moving from a market of 63 million customers to a market of 5 million customers, which would undermine not only the shipbuilding industry but our ability to trade as a country. We need only look at the figures. Trade with England, Wales and Northern Ireland is currently worth £45 billion, compared with our £22 billion in trade with the rest of the world. The dangers of independence to that trading are absolutely clear.
The minister talks about promoting Scotland, but perhaps he could start with the contracts that the Government is responsible for. In the initial allocation of contracts for the Forth replacement crossing, only £72 million of the first £230 million was allocated to Scottish companies.
Let us get back to shipbuilding on the Clyde. Can the member explain why it should still be in the same perilous state that it was in 40 years ago, when I represented the constituency? It has been hanging on by its fingernails for 40 years. Does the member agree that it would be a good idea to try something else?
Members across the chamber have expressed regret at the decline of shipbuilding and, in her opening speech, Johann Lamont agreed that we should work towards a sustainable shipbuilding industry going forward.
We should not lose sight of the decision that we will take next year on independence. Annabelle Ewing spoke about the exemption under article 346 of the EU treaty, which allowed £3 billion of business to be allocated to Scotland between 2007 and 2011. If Scotland were independent, that exemption would not apply any more. We need to be alive to that type of exposure.
No, I am sorry but I am running out of time.
The wider issue is how we support workers across the United Kingdom. The words of Mick McGahey’s speech to the 1968 Scottish Trades Union Congress are still relevant today. He argued against independence on the basis that he was not prepared to leave the mill workers of Manchester or the dockers of Liverpool on their own.
On the issue of looking after workers in the defence industry and all industries throughout the United Kingdom, I and my Labour colleagues will not support independence, unlike the SNP, who would be quite happy to abandon people in Sunderland, Ipswich and Portsmouth to perpetual Tory Government. [Interruption.]
I support the Labour motion, which recognises the contribution to shipbuilding that the UK market makes in Scotland, the benefit of Scotland being in the UK and the fact that independence would be a liability to the future of the shipbuilding industry in Scotland.
This is an important issue not just for the future of the defence industry in Scotland but for all Scotland. It is therefore unfortunate that it has been turned into a constitutional issue by members of the no campaign. Some issues can be above the constitutional debate that is taking place. Unfortunately, in this instance, some members of the no campaign cannot rise above that. [Interruption.]
Johann Lamont listed a number of individuals from the yards who have said that, if Scotland were to vote yes, shipbuilding on the Clyde would be lost. The men to whom I have been speaking over the past 10 days or so—men who work in the shipbuilding industry in Glasgow—understand that what the Labour Party has said up to now has been nothing short of scaremongering. They also know that the reason why work is going to Glasgow is the first-class workmanship, the excellent record and the better business case. If Scotland was to vote yes next year, type 26 orders could still come to Scotland.
I am saying that I have been talking to people who work in the industry—no doubt Iain Gray has done so, too. I can only inform the chamber of the discussions that I have had with individuals who work in the industry, which is the case for Mr Gray and Johann Lamont as well. The people that I have been speaking to know that what is coming from the Labour benches is scaremongering.
I could not agree more with Margo MacDonald.
I want to focus on two issues. First is the role of the defence industry in Scotland today, with a focus on shipbuilding. Second is the potential that awaits shipbuilding and the rest of the defence industry in an independent Scotland. I will also touch on Faslane and its future.
The motion before us raises some basic issues. We all believe that the defence industry is an important element of Scotland’s economy, but, although we on the SNP benches are prepared to stand by the workforce in the Glasgow yards to protect jobs, other parties qualify their support for the workforce, dependent on how it votes in the referendum. Ian Davidson, the local Labour MP for the area, even wants to take the jobs away from his own constituents, as he is calling for a break clause to remove the work if Scotland votes yes next year.
No; I am sorry—I have taken two already.
The defence industry is important to Scotland’s economy and it provides many highly skilled jobs. Many of the companies involved are leaders in their field and rely on their well-qualified and well-trained workforce. Shipbuilding is a key aspect of the industry, and it is one that has a long history in Scotland.
At one time, Clyde shipyards produced around one third of the world’s shipping tonnage. From its peak in the 1920s until as recently as the 1950s there were around 100,000 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland. After years of mismanagement of the economy and the industrial sector by successive UK Governments of varying political colour, by 2011 there were only around 6,000 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland. With the recent job losses announced by BAE, the numbers in the Clyde yards were reduced by a further 800 or so, leaving around only 2,300 jobs. The Guardian leader comment on Wednesday 6 November stated:
“That’s what happens when a whole political generation fails to develop an industrial strategy. It’s another blow to the coalition promise to rebalance the economy.”
Famous shipyards have been consigned to the history books. All that potential and all those jobs have been lost. The jobs went; all those shipyards are gone; all that industry has gone. The one yard that is left building ships on the lower Clyde is Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow, and Garvel Clyde Ltd does ship repair in Greenock. The Scottish Government’s award of a £20 million order has allowed Ferguson’s to build ships again for the first time in five years, and that is very much a welcome addition.
The Clyde yards are being retained by BAE for one reason: they are the best place to build warships in the UK. The workforce’s skills, abilities and experience have ensured that BAE sees a future for those yards.
Politicians are still trying to undermine the contracts for the Clyde yards, despite the evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee—evidence that it refused to publish in its reports—that there are no barriers to the MOD ordering ships from Scotland. When Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews, chief of the material fleet, was asked whether type 26 frigates could be built on the Clyde if Scotland was outside the UK, he said:
“That's absolutely the case, it depends on the outcome of the referendum and the timing of the 26 order ... That is one of the options open to us.”
I have another quick point, Presiding Officer.
I welcome the debate, although I regret some of its terms.
I recognise the importance of shipbuilding to our country. It would be an exaggeration to say that I grew up in the shadow of the yards, but it was not a million miles away—within earshot of the horn rather than in the shadow of the yards—so I know the importance of the industry to Glasgow and Clydeside. It is an important part of our country’s industrial heritage and it has to be an important part of our country’s industrial future. Like Stewart Stevenson, who made this point very well, I hope that that perspective is shared by all members.
I regret the conclusion of the motion, which seeks to make the debate a constitutional bun fight. We hear consistently from Labour members that the SNP has a constitutional obsession, but the motion is just another example of the inconsistency of that argument. I find that, actually, it is the Labour Party that most frequently brings up the constitution in the Parliament. Frankly, when a number of members state directly that yards will close and jobs will go in the context of independence, that can only be described as naked scaremongering.
No, thank you, Mr Gray.
Anas Sarwar, deputy leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, has made the point that the issue does not need to be a constitutional one and we do not need a constitutional rammy. That point should have been heeded, but we are where we are, and I am happy to debate the issue in that context.
Johann Lamont said that she is keen to ensure that trade union voices are heard, and I am, too. Jimmy Webster’s words have been quoted already, but his comment on “Newsnight Scotland” on the type 26 contract is worth hearing again:
“What I will say, and declare publicly: If the situation is that Scottish people by democratic vote, vote Yes, I would expect, no sorry, demand, that every single politician of every section supports us to hell and back”.
He is absolutely right to make that demand.
No, thank you, Mr Rennie.
It is extraordinary that the local member of the UK Parliament called for a “break clause” in the contracts so that the MOD could withdraw work from Scottish yards in the event of a yes vote. Johann Lamont suggested that Mr Davidson is “second to none” in his defence of shipbuilding, but that is a peculiar form of defending the industry and his constituents. It is one of the most cynical calls that I have ever seen and it actively works against his constituents’ interests.
No, thank you, Mr Rennie.
“This has been an excellent day for shipbuilding and industry on the Clyde”.
That comment is still on his website. Of course, we all welcome the greater certainty for the future of the Clyde yards, but what Mr Davidson called an excellent day was a day on which more than 800 people in the yards lost their jobs. How excellent a day would they have felt it to be?
It is sad to reflect on the point that, as Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie said, we knew that this day was coming. To me, that speaks of the point that the issue is a long-standing one, as Margo MacDonald said. Under UK control, we have seen the managed decline of the shipbuilding industry in Scotland. Johann Lamont referred to the fact that 100,000 people worked in shipbuilding at the industry’s peak. More recently, in 1998, 10,100 people worked in shipbuilding in Scotland, and, in 2011, the figure was down to 6,600, which is a decline of one third in 13 years. The number will fall by a further 15 per cent as a result of the recent announcement.
The point about BAE Systems recognising the expertise of the Clyde yards has been well made. The Clyde yards are the place to build the type 26 frigates, which can and will be built there when we are independent. We should reflect on the fact that Scottish shipyards already build ships for countries outside the UK. Whatever the circumstances might be, they already do that. They were involved in £1.5 billion-worth of export contracts with BAE, including eight ships for Malaysia, Brunei and Brazil and the reactivation of five frigates for Romania and Chile.
The most important question is what the future for the yards is once the type 26 frigates are built. On the current trajectory, will we be looking at another day that we all knew was coming? Independence, far from threatening the yards, can help to secure their future.
I will compare our situation with that of Norway, which other members have mentioned. In Norway in 2011, 22,210 people were employed in the building of ships, boats and oil platforms. In 2012, 42 shipyards built more than 100 ships. Murdo Fraser set out how we have a competitive market, which is absolutely the case—I cannot disagree—but I have set out the reality of shipbuilding in Norway compared with the reality in Scotland.
When we are independent we will need the expertise of Scotland’s shipbuilding sector. Murdo Fraser inadvertently made that point when he said that he cannot conceive of the circumstances in which a Scottish Government would not award contracts to Scottish yards. He is saying that there will be work for the industry in an independent Scotland. He is absolutely right. Indeed, I have a copy of the Scottish Global Forum’s letter to Willie Rennie—incidentally, I think that he misrepresented its report; the forum certainly thinks that—which talks about the number of vessels that could be procured from the Scottish yards in an independent Scotland.
We should all get behind Clydeside and Rosyth no matter what our constitutional future is, but let us hear no more about independence threatening Scotland’s industries.
The announcement two weeks ago of significant job losses was not unexpected, but it remains a major blow, and it is not possible to talk about the issues raised in the motion without thinking of those who are at risk of losing their jobs.
The Clyde unions and management are to be commended for the constructive way in which they are negotiating with each other in the best interests not just of the current workforce but of those who we hope will work there in the future.
There is no better or more forceful advocate for the Clyde than those who work in the yards, and they should be listened to. I appreciate that Government back benchers have been handed their copy of Jamie Webster’s quote, which they have stuck to and dutifully read out during the debate. I do not disagree with Jamie Webster. In the event of a yes vote, of course we would have to get behind the Clyde yards. The problem is that I do not want to get behind them just when they are arguing for something when they are put in a difficult position; I want us to have influence over such things. That is the point that all the other union conveners have made.
Others have said that the crucial issue for the success of the Clyde yards is a healthy order book. In fact, there are two issues: orders and skills. The unions will be making the case for apprentices, who have been a major source of pride for everyone who knows the Clyde yards. It is vital that training continues and that the yards continue to be seen as an attractive career choice for young people from Glasgow and far beyond, because only by maintaining skills and training new apprentices will the yards be able to take advantage of the UK’s policy of procuring UK defence ships within our borders and to build the new orders that I wish to see, among which the most crucial is the order for the type 26 global combat ship.
The extra work on the Queen Elizabeth class, which is to be transferred from Portsmouth, is, as Murdo Fraser said, very welcome, as is the order for offshore patrol vessels. That work can bridge the gap in the period up to an order for the type 26.
The order for the type 26 is the next major order that could and should be placed with the Clyde yards, following those for the aircraft carriers and, before them, the type 45 destroyers. Those ships, the Daring class, are in British service now, and no one who has any interest in Clyde shipbuilding will have failed to have noticed HMS Daring arriving in the Philippines this week, bringing with it much-needed UK aid for the country.
I want to see HMS Daring, HMS Dauntless, HMS Diamond, HMS Dragon, HMS Defender and HMS Duncan, which were all commissioned by the previous Labour Government, joined by a new class of Clyde-built frigates that can play their role in the defence of the United Kingdom and in projecting British influence at sea—ships that Glasgow would be proud of.
BAE Systems has made clear that its preference is to build those UK defence ships in Glasgow. Therefore, the single biggest threat to that order coming to Scotstoun and Govan is the loss of the yards’ status as domestic UK shipbuilders. As others have mentioned, UK yards are able to compete for the work under article 346 rules, which assist the UK to place orders for UK defence ships in the UK.
I listened with interest to what Annabelle Ewing said about article 346. The provision exists so that Governments can make decisions in their own interests as member states. She rightly said that a country must be a member state to benefit from the article.
It is kind of Drew Smith to let me intervene. Does he disagree with the MOD minister who, when asked the very question whether a Clyde yard could receive work from the rest of the UK after Scotland has voted yes, said:
“I think the answer is technically yes, if it was in our national interests to do so”?
That is very clear.
I successfully anticipated what Annabelle Ewing would say. It might be technically possible for something to happen, but that does not make it likely that any Government would make a decision that was against the interests of workers in the member state, as she put it. We need a bit of realpolitik in the debate.
The nationalists have tried, with little success, to convince the workers at the yards that all this will somehow not matter. It has been suggested that the Clyde yards could simply—and apparently immediately—diversify into other kinds of shipbuilding. Like Johann Lamont, I would support any intelligent ideas for new work. However, glib statements ignore the highly specialised nature of the yards as defence shipbuilders and forget that BAE Systems bought the Govan business from a Norwegian owner—Kvaerner—that tried to make exactly such a diversified business work on the Clyde.
I am not clear about whether the Scottish Government has urged BAE Systems to build commercial ships such as car ferries or tankers on the Clyde, but I would be interested to know BAE’s response, given that it is a defence contractor.
If the response was not positive, can we presume that the Scottish Government believes that BAE should sell the Clyde yards to someone who might be prepared to make such a business work? The workforce is only too aware of the uncertainty that that would bring.
The only other suggestion—apart from the idea that the UK should buy Scottish, regardless of whether Scotland is in the UK—is that the yards will be kept busy building a Scottish navy. The SNP amendment seeks shamelessly to divert the debate from jobs in the defence industries to Faslane. That is probably the only case of a Government trying to distract attention from significant job losses by promising even more for a different group of workers.
We are told that the £163 million annual saving from Trident can be spent on building boats.
However, we are not told how many boats would be built or how they would be procured, and we already know that that money is to be spent on resurrecting the historical regiments, international development, renewable energy, higher welfare benefits, earlier pensions, tuition fees and skills and training.
I share Annabelle Ewing’s view on the proposed loss of jobs in the fine city of Portsmouth.
I will start by drawing a couple of pictures. In picture 1, the Labour motion
“notes the benefit to this industry of UK defence contracts, and ... considers that the best way to safeguard the future of Scotland’s defence manufacturing industry is to remain in the UK.”
I will help Labour members with some numbers. In 1921, there were 100,000 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland. In 1955, the figure was almost 100,000. In 1998—there was no SNP Government yet—the figure was 10,100. That was pure decimation. In 2011, the number was 6,600. In 2015, it will be 1,500. How can the SNP Government possibly be blamed for such decimation and destruction of an industry?
Here is picture 2. I have spent the past two and a half years researching why Westminster Governments had, as we suspected, denied in the early 1980s the opportunity that existed in the Firth of Clyde for oil and gas production. The Secretary of State for Scotland at the time, who was a local Ayr MP, said that resources were there in exploitable quantities. I have the confidential ministerial papers that show that the Ministry of Defence refused to allow drilling in specific areas because of “special circumstances”, which we know means nuclear submarines.
Over 30 years, we have lost thousands of jobs—not just in shipbuilding—because of the cover-up. Can members imagine the jobs in oil-rig production and maintenance and in the supply chain in Govan if we had been allowed to go ahead with such drilling? Thousands of long-term jobs have been lost, and for what?
Our amendment refers to
“the choices that could be made to support increased diversification”— that could have happened—
“and ... action to boost exports.”
That is absolutely right.
Because of Westminster’s obsequiousness, that £100 billion spend on nuclear submarines and now Trident means that we have lost that added value. Yet still Labour continues to attach itself to the seekers of the lost empire. That is what it is about. It is not just about UK defence contracts but about years of missed opportunity, a lack of vision and a lack of planning and strategy.
As Charles Harrity, a senior GMB organiser—and a real person—said last week:
“I would say it’s more a case of no planning, no strategy ... This is really about whether a British government ... has any kind of industrial strategy at all and the evidence of today shows that they haven’t”.
They never have. Still the Labour Party wishes to hitch itself to a Con-Dem boat that is steadily sinking.
Worse is the politicisation of what was clearly a commercial decision. The Government contracts with BAE Systems, not with another country. Surely the business and financial heads of BAE Systems are not going to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in upgrading a shipbuilding facility because of the constitutional situation; they will do so because of the skills, quality and rate of return on that investment that they will get for their shareholders. That understandable commercial judgment will now and in the future cross country boundaries. Joint procurement of defence contracts will allow the Clyde to compete and to work with the MOD in the UK; the Clyde will also be able to work with many other countries on many marine products. That should be our aspiration for the people on the Clyde. As part of a diversified industry in Scotland, there is no reason on earth why the Clyde should not be able to compete for business on a commercial basis and to work with other countries to do just that.
No. I am almost finished.
Collaboration and the development of specialisms are the secret to success. As the MOD said in January this year:
“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 cannot; I am in my last paragraph.
Many years ago, I was international production, procurement and distribution manager for NCR, and it never crossed my mind that collaborating and working in partnership with our sister companies in France, Switzerland and the United States of America to harness the best skills, quality and performance to meet our customers’ needs was not the best way to build and sell a complete computer system or some of our security systems. The same will apply to the absolute protection for security modules on the Clyde. With product diversification, that is what the Clyde can do, and that is what the Clyde will do.
I express my solidarity with the workers in Glasgow, Filton and Portsmouth who have been affected by the announcement. I know only too well how important such jobs are, and I will go on to explain why.
It is a well-known fact among SNP members—I am sure that the Labour Party also has a memory—-that every single time there is a general election, the Labour Party comes out with the scaremongering story that we will lose our shipyards. That has happened at every general election during the 30 years that I have been involved in politics, but it did not work in 2007, it did not work in 2011, and it will not work in 2014. The people have seen through that ploy.
During last week’s debate, I said that I was angry and sad about the announcement, and I still am. Labour members should take a look at themselves, because their mantra, which constantly belittles the people of Scotland, the people of Glasgow, the people of Govan and the people in my constituency, is wearing very thin.
I did not mention any of the names that Johann Lamont has mentioned. [Interruption.] Excuse me a minute, but Mr Smith should know that a lot of my constituents and family are affected by the announcement. If he would stop sniping from the sidelines, I could finish what I was saying.
I do not speak for the trade unions, but I speak for people in my constituency and people outwith it. They are not the only ones who talk to me and others. The Labour Party is not the only party that people go to to express their concerns. On Saturday, I was at a conference at Glasgow Caledonian University at which a debate on independence was held. Out of all the people at the conference, only two—one of whom was a member of the panel—said that they would not vote yes in the referendum. All the rest of them said that they would vote yes. Afterwards, we spoke to people individually about the shipyards. A person who works in one of the yards, whom I will meet next week—I will not give their name, just in case Johann Lamont happens to speak to others—does not think that it will close. It is not the case that everyone in the yard says that it will close if people vote yes in the referendum. Johann Lamont should not tell me that the Labour Party speaks for every worker in the Clyde shipyards. It does not, and I am sure that others—both inside and outside the chamber—will agree with me.
I was born in Govan and my family—my father, my brothers and my uncles—worked in the shipyards. They were vital to the livelihoods of people in the area. Many other families worked in the yards, from Kvaerner to Harland and Wolff to Stephen and Sons to Fairfields, so I know only too well about the heritage of the Govan shipyards. I also know only too well that, as members such as Chic Brodie have said, they have been run down for many years. We should be diversifying and looking to the future. That is what the shipyard workers are telling us.
When we talk about the here and now, what gets to everyone is the fact that Labour is decrying the skills of the shipyard workers. Instead of supporting those workers, as the Opposition should, Labour is using a red herring and saying to them that if they do not stick by the union or by what Labour tells them, they will lose their jobs. Labour is not saying that they have great skills, that they are fantastic workers and that, if the defence jobs do not come to the Clyde yards, it will do everything that it can to ensure that their skills are used elsewhere. That is what we should be doing. That is why I repeat what I said to Opposition members last week: you should be ashamed of yourselves for constantly scaremongering. It is a disgrace.
I want to pick up on something that Chic Brodie mentioned: the suggestion that, if we vote for independence, defence work will never come to Scotland. The fact that the MOD is working with Australia on the type 26 frigates has been mentioned. The MOD press release that Chic Brodie cited says:
On 7 November, Jim Murphy, who is a member of Johann Lamont’s party, said:
“Co-operation on defence procurement is critical, enabling us to maximise our ability” to go forward. That is the view of someone in Johann Lamont’s party, yet she argues against that.
Let us be grown up about this. Are all those on the unionist side really saying that a future UK Government would be so small-minded that if its nearest neighbour, an independent Scotland, had the best workforce, it would snub us by going elsewhere and having something much more expensive built?
Iain Gray rose—
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I say to those members: for goodness’ sake, grow up and stop scaremongering. You have done it for long enough. As I said, it did not work in 2007, it did not work in 2011, and it will not work in 2014 either.
The road has been long and it has not been an easy one. There are many reasons why we are in a situation in which so little shipbuilding is done in Scotland. There is no doubt that it has been a difficult journey. The issues that have brought about the situation do not change. EU competition laws do not change—and will not change, whether people vote yes or no in the referendum. That means that it will be difficult.
It is a long time since we have won and built a merchant ship. We cannot even win the competition to build boats for CalMac Ferries. That is the scale of the challenge, and we cannot ignore it.
All the other countries that have been mentioned have gone over the years. They came and we taught them. They built up their own capacity and then they decided, as independent nations, that they would rather build the ships themselves.
We heard from the Deputy First Minister that we could overcome the issue and that, under independence, we could build Australian ships. I found that most offensive. I hope that it was not deliberately misleading and that she was badly advised when she read out that statement. We have not built an Australian ship for 35 years. That is the reality, and we cannot overstate the scale of the issue.
About 15 years ago, when a Labour Government was in power, we got to a stage that was welcomed by all the trade unions and, I think, all the political parties. The shipbuilding industry was not the industry that we knew. It did not employ the tens of thousands of people that it had employed in the past, due to some of the things I have referred to: we could not compete effectively and we never invested effectively. We used to build out in the rain, whereas others built inside. Shipyards across Europe and in other countries now import the steel hulls. There are no steelworkers working in the shipyards in Germany. They import from Poland and exploit the cheap labour there. We have missed those chances to keep up, so we have a small number of people building ships.
We used to call it the rent book on the Clyde. The grey ships were the backbone—they were what we were guaranteed. I concede to the minister that they have been seen as a rent book and a subsidy for shipbuilding ever since. Those are the only orders that we can win, and that is why it is vital that we do not risk them. Regrettably, we do not have a plan in place that will carry the workforce, so we cannot risk having a situation in which the UK Government will not sign off the ships.
No, thank you.
We have not diversified, but the threat is imminent. It is only a year until the ships will be signed off—or not.
Somebody mentioned Ferguson Shipbuilders, which was promised a ship in 2007. The Scottish Government and the previous Scottish Executive worked hard to get ships into Ferguson Shipbuilders. I am grateful for that, because the yard is in my constituency. However, we cancelled a ship in between. We promised Ferguson a ship and cancelled it. Do members know why we cancelled it? I suspect that we cancelled it because we came to the conclusion that we would be expending precious Scottish Government budgets to build in a shipyard that was not in Scotland. We had to wait two or three years until we finally got further contracts.
It is right that, if we have Government budgets to build smaller ships, we should take every advantage and pull every string to ensure that the orders go to Scottish shipyards. Every Government would do that and I argue that the Scottish Government, whatever its shape, would do it in future. That is what the UK Government will do.
The really depressing factor that hits me as we discuss the matter today is that we knew that this was coming. We have talked about the gap in the orders. What have we done about diversification since then? What has Scottish Enterprise done to ensure that we build on the skills of the 800 ship designers who have designed a world-class product that people want to build?
I am happy to lay out in my closing speech the work that we have done to help apprenticeships and training on the Clyde through Scottish Enterprise grants. However, does Duncan McNeil not think that the UK Government, which is in charge of defence, should have taken the lead on diversification? When has he criticised it for not doing so?
I think that both Governments need to get together to discuss diversification in shipbuilding, with the defence contracts being used as a core or backbone.
We need to keep the First Minister, Mr Salmond, to his promise about the reindustrialisation of the Clyde. We need to deliver on renewable jobs. We need to re-equip the North Sea. We need to do all those things. There is no point in pointing to history and saying that it was all someone else’s fault when in our time we are not doing any better. Where is our manufacturing strategy? That is the challenge to us today and in the future. Let us develop our manufacturing strategy, irrespective of whether people vote for independence or to remain within the union. That is our responsibility. Let us face up to it.
Next week, as members have alluded to, we will see the Scottish Government’s white paper. Unfortunately, this afternoon we appear to have seen Scottish Labour’s white flag. Today, Labour members have made it clear that their support for the Clyde shipyards is conditional on the constitutional arrangement. I wonder what those Clyde workers watching the debate at home are thinking today as Labour politicians queue up to write out the post-independence redundancy notices for the workers on the Clyde. Here today, Labour members have declared that, unless Scotland votes no, the Labour Party sees no future for the Clyde shipyards. What an utterly depressing way for the Labour Party to conduct itself in Scotland.
During the debate, some have argued—Willie Rennie majored on this—that no UK warship has been built elsewhere. In what I thought was an excellent speech, Stewart Stevenson took Willie Rennie to task on the issue of sovereign capability, particularly in respect of fixed-wing aircraft. According to Hansard, speaking about the issue of the type 26 contract, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Gerald Howarth, said:
“My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just returned from an extremely profitable visit to Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. All those countries have expressed interest in joining the United Kingdom in a collaborative programme”.—[Official Report, House of Commons, 31 January 2011; Vol 522, c 575.]
That collaborative programme was to develop the type 26, so it is entirely conceivable that warships could be constructed outside the United Kingdom. The fact that it has not happened yet does not preclude such an opportunity in the future, as the under-secretary of state outlined.
I have a lot to get through, but I may come back to Mr Rennie in due course.
Margo MacDonald made the important point that no less a man than Jimmy Reid—he was second to none in his commitment to Scottish shipbuilding; he was certainly not second to Ian Davidson MP—supported Scottish independence. The very notion that a man with such a strong commitment to the Scottish shipbuilding industry would support independence without thinking that the Scottish shipbuilding industry could see a prosperous and better future as part of an independent country demeans the work that Jimmy Reid did throughout his life. The conclusion that he came to was that independence is the best way for Scotland to go.
We know that Ian Davidson MP is one to put out leaflets saying “Separation shuts shipyards”. We know that the better together campaign has put out leaflets claiming that shipyard jobs are more secure as part of the UK. However, as my colleague Jamie Hepburn pointed out, the decline in those jobs while Scotland has been part of the union suggests that it is the United Kingdom that shuts shipyards and presents insecurity as the future of the shipbuilding industry in Scotland. Like the better together campaign’s stories about losing the triple-A credit rating, that is yet another example of the reality belying the rhetoric.
I will back the Clyde workers whatever the vote next September, but it is disappointing that so many Opposition MSPs have written off the future of the Clyde yards in the event of a yes vote. Have they no ambition, no vision, no willingness to consider a better future? Interestingly, Duncan McNeil spoke about those other small independent nations that have developed and allowed their shipbuilding industries to thrive. Can he not make the causal link between what has been happening to Scottish shipbuilding as part of the union and the ability of those countries to have control over their own futures and over their own industries? Can he not see that there may be a better future out there?
Michael McMahon spoke of the industrial decline in central Scotland. I understand entirely the pain that is felt in those communities from that industrial decline, yet still the Labour Party wants to cling to the very political system that delivered that decline.
As things currently stand at Westminster, that political system condemns Scotland to occasional rule by the Conservative Party even when the people of Scotland do not vote for that party. On James Kelly’s remark that we would be condemning England to perpetual Tory rule, the Labour Party would still have won the 1997, 2001 and 2005 general elections if all Scottish MPs had been removed from the equation. The idea that England never votes Labour is a myth perpetuated by Scottish Labour MSPs as a sort of faux solidarity argument.
It has been argued that by removing Trident we would create economic insecurity. However, a 2007 report that was commissioned by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Scottish Trades Union Congress—among those who compiled the report was one Claudia Beamish, who is now an MSP but was at that time the chair of Scottish Labour—concluded:
“Scotland would economically be a net loser from any decision to replace Trident. There would be serious consequences for its public services and for employment over a prolonged period of time.”
Better together—ye couldnae make it up.
Ooh! Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I cannot make too many points, but I will say that I am absolutely in solidarity with Duncan McNeil, because his ambitions are the same as mine were and still are. Chic Brodie made the same sort of point, which is that, at the end of the day, it is the bottom line that counts. There is not a Government in Europe just now that can afford to pay over the odds, and the United Kingdom Government is particularly strapped for cash.
I therefore suggest that timing is all. A fortnight after the Scots vote for independence, it is just possible that there would be folk in England who might object if some warship orders for England were placed with a Scottish yard. That is a fortnight afterwards, but a couple of years afterwards who cares? The rule of thumb will be how much it will cost in Scotland compared with elsewhere.
I talk about diversification with some bitterness because, when I was elected for Govan, it was in the same situation as it is just now, so I suggested that the yards could make liquid gas carriers, which was a market that was only just opening up. However, I have to be honest and say that the unions, led by Jim Airlie, laughed at me and told everybody that I was a silly lassie—I wisnae a silly lassie then and I’m no one now.
There are still things that could be built on the Clyde, but Duncan McNeil knows better than anybody else that the upper Clyde is limited in the type of ships that can be built there. As for diversification, it has been tried: Kvaerner did it when it built the upper structures for oil rigs. Lots of things have happened on the Clyde.
This has been a bad-tempered little debate. In fact, it has been not one debate but two. There has been one set of issues that those of us who wish to see the union continue have talked about, and a completely different set of issues that those in the party of government have talked about, and it seems never the twain should meet.
First, on behalf of the Conservatives, I take this opportunity to offer our solidarity with the workers in the shipyards, both those who are losing their jobs and those who will continue to have their jobs. If that requires us to make the commitment out loud so that everybody can hear it that we will do everything necessary to ensure that the type 26 frigates are built on the Clyde, whether before or after September next year, then we will make that commitment, just as I am sure that our friends opposite will make that commitment.
The problem that we have is that there is a lack of understanding as to who is responsible for what in this debate. If this debate is in any way a constitutional one, then who made it a constitutional debate? Whose bill is it that made us go towards a referendum in September next year? It is this Government that decided to make the constitution the number 1 issue.
Keith Brown, in his speech against the motion, chose to make a desperate and futile defence of his party’s position, which he gave up only to replace it with a vicious attack on the UK Government. He went through all the things that have been done and all the things that he portrayed as failures, such as the cost of the aircraft carriers and the abandonment of the Nimrod programme. To tell you the truth, if that is the way he seeks to make friends, I wouldnae like to be one of his enemies.
However, Keith Brown went on to talk about other things. His amendment mentions Trident. The truth is that he tells us that these contracts could be won after Scotland became independent yet any such negotiation would take place at exactly the same time as his Government was trying to close down the Faslane naval base. If that is how he makes friends, I do not know what he intends to achieve through his negotiations. Give and take is how we negotiate traditionally. I suspect that he would not be willing to negotiate on that or many other points.
Many times during the debate, red herrings have been raised. The concept of us working jointly with countries such as Australia to develop the type 26 has been raised as an example of how we can, of course, work across international boundaries.
Other speeches, though, showed a bit more understanding about how joint defence procurement works. First, I do not believe for a minute that Australia intends to build any of those ships itself. Secondly, where joint defence procurement happens, it tends to be on the basis that contractor work is shared out among the customers. The idea that Scotland will indulge itself in joint procurement work with another country when it is not in fact a customer for those ships is a bit naive.
No, I will not.
I want to talk about BAE’s decision to commit to the Govan and Scotstoun shipyards. It made that decision because the Govan and Scotstoun shipyards are the best place to build modern warships. It made that commitment because it believes that the staff at those shipyards are the best people to build modern warships. However, it also made that decision based on the key assumption that Scottish independence will be decisively rejected.
I hear the constant whining from the SNP back benchers. During the debate, they have had the opportunity to express themselves, make their case and set out why the rest of the United Kingdom might choose to build its ships here in Scotland. They have had the opportunity to make the commitment that has been asked of us by the trade unions and their leadership. We know that the Clyde is the best place for the UK to build its warships but they have chosen to put it at risk.
It is, without a shadow of a doubt, our duty to support the shipyards and their workers. I give the commitment that I will work to ensure that that work goes to the Clyde, but I will not delay the start of that commitment until the day after the referendum. It starts now. My commitment is that I will fight Scottish independence to protect those jobs.
As Alex Johnstone said, this has been a fairly ill-tempered debate, which has, perhaps not unexpectedly, been dominated by the constitution. It is important to remember that we are talking about at least 800 people in Scotland losing their jobs; around 1,200 people elsewhere in the UK face the same prospect. At the root of the issue, we must remember that the support that the Scottish Government provides through PACE and other means is vital to ensure that those individuals have the prospect of further employment, if that is what they so wish. That is an important point—I take that point in Johann Lamont’s motion.
Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the constitution has intruded in the way that it has. Despite what Alex Johnstone says, the Labour Party’s motion makes this a constitutional issue. That is in stark contrast to the request by Johann Lamont’s deputy leader that we should not make this a constitutional debate, and to the position of Jamie Webster, who said that the issue should not become a political football.
Instead, the motion quite clearly tries to identify the decision that was taken as a constitutional consequence. Incredibly, Johann Lamont has said—she will get the chance to clarify these remarks if I am wrong—that the decision was an example of the union dividend. The decision to cut 800-plus jobs in Scotland and many more in the rest of the UK was an example of the union dividend.
Is it not the case that, as soon as the announcement was made about Portsmouth, very skilled people there—engineers and what have you—would almost automatically and immediately have started to seek other jobs so that, by the time the decision would theoretically be changed because of constitutional arrangements, there would be fewer skilled people in the Portsmouth area?
That is a natural consequence. If people, especially at that skill level, knew that there was not the future that they would want at that yard, they would start to look for other opportunities. That is natural enough. It would, of course, have been useful had Willie Rennie acknowledged his political ally in Portsmouth, who mentioned that those jobs will be long gone by the time the contract has been awarded.
Johann Lamont made the point that the SNP should consider its arguments because of the consequences. That is not a bad discipline. Perhaps we would not do that in the course of this debate, but we should all from time to time check the arguments that we are deploying and the effects that they would have. Perhaps it is time for Johann Lamont to undergo a little bit of self-examination as well, because she is now ignoring her deputy leader’s calls not to make the issue a political one and supporting her Conservative friends—I think that that was the phrase that Alex Johnstone used. Members should bear in mind, of course, that many Labour Party people outwith the chamber say that they do not have the stomach to work with the Tories but, obviously, all the Labour Party people here like working with them. Not a word of criticism has come from the Labour Party today about the Tory Government’s various failures on defence; the criticism has all been directed at the SNP, of course.
Worst of all are the explicit—they were previously implicit—threats to the workforce on the Clyde. The Labour Party is telling people on the Clyde, “If you do the democratic thing and don’t vote the way we want, your jobs are gone.” It is a disgrace that it should do that. It is, of course, possible to say—as I think Alex Johnstone tried to say and we will say—that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, we will help people to try to retain those jobs.
I want to go back to a point that I made earlier, which I hope Johann Lamont will respond to in summing up. I wrote to her on 25 June to ask whether she could clarify whether Scottish Labour would commit to work with the Scottish Government to give our shipyards the best possible chance of winning this contract as soon as possible, thus safeguarding hundreds of jobs and the local communities that depend on them. I still have not had a response from her. Perhaps that colours my view of her call for cross-party working. I welcome the commitment from Alex Johnstone to cross-party working. The point is to provide reassurances from the UK Government, should they be required, that the type 26 contracts can, of course, be delivered in an independent Scotland. There is no question about that.
Duncan McNeil was looking back to what has not happened up till now on diversification as he saw it. I have pointed out to him the number of times—six this year, for example—that Scottish Government ministers have worked with BAE alone on improving productivity, modernisation, job opportunities and apprenticeships. Duncan McNeil has not said one word about the fact that, as I have pointed out, the UK Government is responsible for diversification, as it is responsible for defence. It has some responsibility, as well. As soon as I raised that issue, his response was, “Oh, don’t look back.” His first point was, “What have we done up till now?” All that I am saying is that we should be even-handed. The lion’s share of the responsibility has to be with the UK Government. At the end of the cold war in the 1990s, the Labour Party said, “Let’s make sure that we make the premium from this the fact that we can diversify arms jobs.” That has not happened.
I concede that I did not intend to take the minister back to that point. The point that I tried to focus on was that it is surely not beyond the Scottish Government, which has been in power for six years, to connect up the skills shortage in the North Sea with the overabundance of skills on the west coast of Scotland. We could have delivered renewables and manufacturing jobs, and we could be renewing vessels in the North Sea. Why is that beyond us after six years of SNP government?
That is exactly the kind of work that has been going on. I will point to a couple of examples. On the North Sea and renewables, members will, of course, know that Babcock has diversified at Rosyth. It has already taken that position, and it is starting to do that. I think that we all know that BAE is much more explicitly a defence supply industry contractor—that is what it does—but where diversification can take place, we have tried to support that.
I note that Willie Rennie opposed the extension to the Rosyth base that Babcock applied for. He opposed the future opportunities in terms of the ferry terminal, so I take his support for diversification with a pinch of salt.
No, I will not.
There was not enough mention in the debate of the impact of the extended overruns in UK defence procurement. They have been wished away and not mentioned by either side: the cost of aircraft carriers going from £3.6 billion to £6.2 billion, and £3.6 billion being spent on aircraft that never flew a mile—I would have thought that people would make a connection between those things and the jobs that are lost in Scotland. We get only 5 per cent of the defence procurement jobs in the UK. I am sure that we could get an awful lot more if it was not for the huge overruns and wastage that we see within UK defence procurement.
Of course I am more than happy to discuss those things with the UK, but we cannot hide the facts, and we should not hide them. We should point them out. Can members imagine what would happen here? James Kelly has regularly debated the Glasgow airport rail link with me and he has mentioned £30 million that was spent but not then recouped. Today we are talking about the spending of £2.6 billion—that is £2,600 million—on the aircraft carriers and £3.6 billion on aircraft that never flew but were scrapped at a cost of £500,000 and had a scrap value of £1 million, yet there is not a word of criticism about that. I would have thought that James Kelly would make the connection in relation to that.
Much has been said about the people who work on the Clyde and everyone has a person that they can refer to. I will not repeat Jamie Webster’s comments, but they are key. We seem to be getting something of a consensus around the fact that we should all commit to help out the workforce whether the Scottish people vote yes or no. We should all do that.
However, I should also mention somebody else—he is a former shipyard worker and TGWU official—who said:
“The industry has for years been far too reliant on Admiralty contracts for warships. What we need to do is diversify and build a range of craft like cruise liners, ferries and offshore patrol boats.” [Interruption.]
I do not know why Duncan McNeil finds this objectionable.
“What we must not do is allow all that skill, expertise and technology to disappear and I fear that is happening under Westminster. We need to be in control so that we make decisions here in Scotland that suit Scotland.”
Those are the words of the former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow, Alex Mosson, and I support them.
In closing the debate, I start by putting on the record again our concern, which has been expressed by members in every part of the chamber, for those workers who face redundancy in BAE shipyards and their families, for whom this will be a difficult time. I welcome the measures that the Scottish Government has taken in Glasgow and Rosyth to help with that. I give the workers in Portsmouth a particular mention since, for them, this is more than the ebb and flow of contracts but rather the end of a shipbuilding era. We all, I think, regret that.
Yet this debate is about opportunity and the potential of a bright future for our defence industries, and rightly so, because they demonstrate what is possible if we seize the opportunities that the United Kingdom gives us. Contrary to the hand wringing that we have heard from SNP members, the UK defence sector is the second largest in Europe and Scotland’s skills, ingenuity and reliability have always ensured that we punch above our weight in claiming a share of that. We have 10 per cent of the defence jobs. That equates to almost 12,600 people and is way above our population share. We have one third of the UK’s shipbuilding, which is several times our population share.
The industry is not just involved in shipbuilding and is not just on the Clyde, as we have Rosyth, too, and the largest defence electronics site in the UK just down the road at Selex Galileo. Indeed, a third of all MOD sites are right here in Scotland and an estimated 50,000 jobs depend on the sector. Just as our electricity industry benefits from the single British energy market and our universities benefit from access to UK-scale research funds, so our defence industry can make the most of a UK defence budget of £34 billion.
By the way, the cost of Trident—the centrepiece of the Government amendment—is included in that defence budget, so an independent Scotland’s share of that would already be in the £3 billion Scottish defence budget. It is not some extra lottery win to get us out of any fiscal hole that the Government finds itself in on any given day. As for using it for diversification, as the Government amendment suggests, many speakers spoke about the difficulty over decades of finding ways of diversifying in the defence industry. It is not enough just to say the word. We have to hear the actual plans and suggestions.
The one SNP idea for defence in the future that we know about is the plan to divert half a billion pounds out of the defence budget and put it straight into the coffers of the banks and the energy companies, by cutting their corporation tax. The SNP will replace 11,000 Faslane jobs with bigger bonuses for bankers and bigger profits for the energy companies.
Wide as our defence sector is, much of the debate has focused on shipbuilding, where the issues are starkest. That is no wonder. The industry’s heritage looms large in our collective story, and not just for Clydesiders. I am not from Glasgow, as anyone who hears me can tell, but there was a shipyard at the bottom of my granny’s street in Leith and I remember being shepherded into the hall at primary school to watch the launch of the QE2 on the Clyde on television.
Four years ago, I was privileged to attend the launch of HMS Defender—a type 45 frigate—at Scotstoun. I defy anyone who has a soul not to shed a tear when they watch the chains slip away and 8,500 tonnes of steel slip away with them. The ships are a living testament to and symbol of our capacity to shape not just steel but our world and our destiny. For that reason, the industry’s story echoes through our story, in prose, poetry and song, and in politics and this Parliament, as Johann Lamont illustrated when she quoted Donald Dewar’s great speech on the day when the Parliament opened.
Our ships are more than artefacts of steel. They are packed with the most sophisticated technology ever devised. They are the pinnacle of human ingenuity. The industry therefore deserves rigorous and honest arguments, but it has not heard such arguments from the SNP benches today. We heard tankers being misrepresented as warships that have been built elsewhere. We heard the argument—absurd, in the 21st century—that a global corporation such as BAE could not recruit or transfer skills to build ships elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Of course it could. We heard design partnerships being misrepresented as agreements to build abroad. We even heard the argument that, because there have not been as many defence contracts in the past as we would have liked there to be, we should turn our backs on the contracts that are available today. What kind of argument is that?
“If the situation is that Scottish people by democratic vote, vote Yes, I would expect, no sorry, demand, that every single politician of every section supports us to hell and back”.
Let us be clear about this—and this is Mr Brown’s answer, on Johann Lamont’s behalf. I have fought for shipbuilding jobs before. I did it in Whitehall when I worked for the Secretary of State for Scotland and, when I was Labour leader here in Holyrood and the carrier contracts were under threat, I suggested to Alex Salmond that we go together to fight for shipbuilding jobs. We did that, going all the way—not quite to hell but to Liam Fox’s office, where we made the case and we won.
If by some chance there is a yes vote next year, I promise that I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon or whoever—even Alex Johnstone—and argue that the type 26 contracts should stay on the Clyde. So will Johann Lamont and so will Mr Drew Smith.
Members should understand that, at the moment when we must make that case, we will be arguing against the whole peacetime history of naval construction in this country, which has never built a warship abroad. At that moment, we will be arguing against a Government that has a multibillion pound contract to award and the choice of spending it on jobs for its citizens or jobs for ours. We will be arguing against EU law, which says that a defence contract awarded externally must be awarded in open competition. We will be arguing with a Westminster Parliament whose Scottish representatives have lost all authority—[Interruption.]
No—I am sorry.
We accept Jamie Webster’s comments. Why is it, then, that when his fellow conveners’ views are quoted in the chamber, in comments such as
“If Scotland was independent, no one could bid to build type 26”,
“there is no way on God’s earth” that shipbuilding can survive in an independent Scotland, and
“no UK Ministry of Defence means no more shipbuilding jobs in Scotland”, they are dismissed by the likes of Stuart McMillan and Sandra White? Why are those TU conveners told to grow up and stop scaremongering?
We will make the case for the Clyde in any constitutional circumstance, but the tragedy is that this case is already won. The fight is over, and the type 26 contracts are heading for Scotland. The workforce on the Clyde have earned the right to these jobs, and the only thing that can threaten that—the only reason why we will have to go to hell and back and win the argument again—is the SNP’s independence project.
The problem is not Labour’s motion but the SNP’s referendum.
I am not suggesting that colleagues on the SNP side of the chamber do not care about those jobs. I am sure—
No—I have said no.
I am sure that those nationalist MSPs are sincere in their wish to keep these contracts on the Clyde, and that those slipway chains tug at their heartstrings just as they did at mine. However, the trouble is that, whatever their hearts are saying, their souls belong to separatism. That is the reality that they cannot acknowledge; that is the credo that dare not speak its name. That is the inconvenient truth that they have tried to shout down all afternoon because they cannot face up to it.
No matter how important shipbuilding might be and how much these jobs matter to the SNP, independence matters more to it.
Their ideology is wrong and damaging, but I would respect it more if just one of them had the guts to stand up and say that they believe that placing Scotland’s shipbuilding industry at risk is a price worth paying for independence. That is the logic of their position, and if they really wish to transcend it, they should vote for the motion tonight and back those shipbuilding workers.