Defence Industry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20th November 2013.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

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.