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– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st November 2019.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister how the Scottish Government is supporting shipbuilding in Fife and across Scotland. (S5F-03732)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Scotland has a rich shipbuilding heritage. It is an industry that continues to demonstrate its expertise, which was recognised last week with the award of the contract for the first five type 31 frigates to Babcock, and I am delighted that that announcement will bring security to the skilled workforce at Rosyth. We look forward to working with Babcock to maximise the benefits for Scotland, for Rosyth and for our supply chain. We also continue to support shipbuilding more generally across Scotland, and will continue to do so.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The First Minister referenced the award to Babcock in Rosyth of the £1.25 billion contract to build five new frigates for the Royal Navy, securing hundreds of jobs in Fife and elsewhere in Scotland for many years to come. In addition to the two recently completed aircraft carriers, that brings the total number of British navy vessels that are being built in Scotland to 18, including 13 frigates. The whole chamber should welcome that news, but can the First Minister tell us how many frigates would there be in the navy of an independent Scotland?

The First Minister:

The flaw in Murdo Fraser’s supposedly really clever attack is that we only have to look at many small independent countries across the world to find that they have shipbuilding industries that flourish even more than any in the UK.

Scotland, as an independent country, will support our shipbuilding industry and will do so because of the expertise here. Nobody needs to do our shipbuilding industry any favours. It wins contracts because it is the best at what it does, and that will continue to be the case—whatever Scotland’s constitutional future.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

The 15-year delay in decommissioning the nuclear submarines at Rosyth dockyard has cost the taxpayer billions of pounds. What more can the Scottish Government do to free up the yard for low-carbon shipbuilding, while removing those weapons from Jo Swinson’s reach?

The First Minister:

The first issue raised by Mark Ruskell is unfortunately not a matter for the Scottish Government, but for the UK Government and the Ministry of Defence, although we want to see Rosyth flourish. In addition to the issues that I talked about in response to Murdo Fraser, there is great potential in low-carbon work in the future.

On nuclear weapons, I have made my view clear. I want to see Faslane, for example, be a conventional naval base. I do not want to see it continue to host weapons of mass destruction, because I think that all of us should be determined to see a nuclear-free Scotland playing its full contribution in a nuclear-free world.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

Does the First Minister agree that it is a bit rich for the Tories to come to this chamber and claim credit for the shipbuilding industry after the devastation that they have wrought on many shipbuilding communities across Scotland, including my own in Greenock and Inverclyde, and that it was the decisive actions of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay, in saving Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow, that saved jobs and provided a future for the yard?

The First Minister:

I could not agree more with Stuart McMillan. There are, of course, remaining challenges at Ferguson’s, but it would no longer be open right now were it not for the action that this Government has taken. Before the boundaries changed, I used to represent Govan shipyard in this Parliament—that honour now lies with Humza Yousaf—so I have seen over the years the broken Westminster promises to our shipbuilding industry, time and time again. Westminster Governments—not just Tories, but of all colours—have not treated our shipbuilding industry in the way that they should have. I look forward to a thriving shipbuilding industry in Scotland because the people who work in our shipyards are the best at what they do. They deserve to flourish.