Scottish Enterprise (Support for Raytheon)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th April 2018.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

3. People everywhere have been shocked and disturbed at the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is regarded as the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis at present with tens of millions of people in need of help. It is directly caused by Saudi Arabia’s blockade and bombing campaign. The Scottish Government has contributed public money to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal in response to that humanitarian crisis and members of the First Minister’s party have joined Greens and others to oppose the United Kingdom Government’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which will continue to make the situation worse.

Why is Scottish Enterprise giving public money to the world’s largest guided missile manufacturer, Raytheon, which supplies Saudi Arabia? Is there not an immense contradiction between showing legitimate and urgent concern for the victims of a humanitarian crisis caused by the brutality of the arms industry and still funding the arms industry?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I agree with Patrick Harvie’s comments about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and its causes; I do not think that there is any disagreement between us there.

I turn to Patrick Harvie’s specific question about Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government’s responsibilities. I will be very clear about this. We have to recognise the importance to the Scottish economy of the aerospace and shipbuilding sectors, which employed 16,000 people in 2016. However—this is an important point—the Scottish Government and its enterprise agencies do not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions. Our agencies’ support is focused on helping firms to diversify and to develop non-military applications for their technology.

We have been very clear in our expectation that the UK Government should properly police the export of arms and investigate whenever concerns are raised. I am always happy to discuss these issues with individual members of Parliament and would be happy to discuss the matter further with Patrick Harvie. I hope that that is of some reassurance to him.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

There must be a great many businesses, of all shapes and sizes, throughout Scotland that could benefit from that public investment in non-military activity, thereby generating jobs and economic activity without the consequences of funding the arms industry. Raytheon is not the only example. There is still a lack of clarity in the detail that the Scottish Government publishes, but a significant amount of money—£6 million, reportedly—was received by Leonardo, which was previously known as Selex. Again, that money came from Scottish Enterprise. That company is involved in supplying the weapons that Turkey is using against the Kurds in Afrin and elsewhere.

There is an immense contradiction, surely, between what we say about the world stage, humanitarian crises and the need to move away from military interventions that make situations worse, not better, and continuing to fund the self-same businesses that profit from such activity. Apparently, Glasgow City Council is also promoting an arms fair, which includes undersea weapons technology, yet the Scottish Government and many of the rest of us continue to oppose those in the form of Trident. Surely it is time for an ethical investment policy that moves away from the arms trade wholesale and invests instead in sustainable and ethical businesses.

The First Minister:

First, it is important to focus on what the investment of the Scottish Government and, in particular, Scottish Enterprise, does. As I have said, the Scottish Government and our enterprise agencies do not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions. We have been very clear that our support is focused on helping firms to diversify and to develop non-military applications for the technology that they use.

Patrick Harvie mentioned Leonardo, which featured in the media at the weekend. Scottish Enterprise has supported that Edinburgh-based company to diversify into non-military markets. The investment included supporting the company to target opportunities in blue light and civilian markets. Through that funding, Leonardo developed a radar system for launch by the Norwegian search and rescue service. It also helped the company to secure a contract with the Royal Canadian Air Force for a system that protects aircraft from heat-seeking missiles—a defensive and not offensive use of technology.

I absolutely recognise that Patrick Harvie raises important issues, but if we are to have a proper debate—one that recognises our ethical responsibilities, which I take very seriously, and our responsibilities towards economic development—it is important to be clear about what Scottish Enterprise investment does. I hope that Patrick Harvie will reflect on what I have said today, but I am, of course, willing to continue to discuss the issues, as Scottish Enterprise will be, with members of Parliament who are interested in them.