Defence Industry: Scotland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 4:30 pm, 30th April 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the diversification of the defence industry in Scotland.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Hollobone. I am glad that this debate was selected because it is an opportunity to raise the important and seldom discussed topic of the defence industry in Scotland.

We are rightly proud of our history of shipbuilding. I represent a constituency just south of the River Clyde, and I do not need to tell anyone in this room that the legacy of shipbuilding and the remaining cranes dotted along the Clyde are a great symbol of national identity and pride, not just for those who live near to or in Glasgow, but across Scotland. That pride is not limited to those of us north of the border, either. The industry holds significance for the entire UK. Shipbuilding rightly continues to be an important part of the defence industry in Scotland, but as the demand and requirements of national defence change and future threats emerge, we must look at areas of future growth for Scottish industry, to ensure that alongside shipbuilding, Scotland has a diverse pool of defence industries that will be sustainable in future.

In 1981, 68% of the workers in defence-related industries worked in shipbuilding, while 26% worked in the aerospace industry and about 6% worked in the armaments industry. In 2017, the picture was similar: shipbuilding accounted for about the same proportion of 68%, while the aerospace industry in Scotland had gained a slightly greater share of 28% and the armaments industry had about 4% of the workforce. Of the £1.6 billion that the Ministry of Defence spent with industry in 2016-17, 57% was spent on shipbuilding and repair, with the nearest spending block making up just 11.8%, which was spent on computer services.

The defence sector in Scotland is significantly reliant on shipbuilding, and although shipbuilding is a major benefit to our economy, high reliance on a single sector exposes the wider industry to risk from changes in the market and the evolving nature of the threats that we face, and to the risk of mismanagement by the UK Government.