Defence Industry: Scotland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:47 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 4:47 pm, 30th April 2019

I am not at all surprised that the hon. Gentleman writes a column in the Morning Star. I would have been disappointed if he had said anything other than that. Of course I wish that all the defence contract work available should remain in the UK, support high-value UK jobs and advance our technical expertise in shipbuilding. I have no doubt that the Minister will address that issue when he responds.

I pay tribute to the people who work for businesses that have invested in Scotland such as Babcock, BAE Systems, Leonardo, Thales, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and others. All those major contractors and others are operating in Scotland. I have heard Members of this House speak of those businesses in disparaging terms. I want to make it clear that if any Member of this House does not want those businesses and their workers in their constituency, I will be absolutely delighted to have them come to Stirling. Stirling has a long association with our armed forces, and a proud connection with our servicemen and women and those who support them in the supply chain that those industries represent. That connection is symbolised by Stirling castle.

I do not know John Dolan but he captured some of the pride of the people who work in those industries. I am proud of that workforce, such as those at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, many of whom are my constituents. If I could, I would say to each of them, in the words of Mr Dolan, “Thank you for keeping me, my children and my grandchildren safe. Thank you for defending our country and our freedoms. Scotland is proud of you.” In my constituency, defence contracts support many jobs, especially at FES, which is a principal electrical contractor and works on the new Navy ships that are being built on the Clyde. Emerson also has significant defence contracts. FES has made a huge investment in its apprenticeship programmes and runs its own academy. Hundreds of skilled electricians have benefited from FES’s commitment to them and the Ministry of Defence’s commitment to Scotland.

Some on the left approach this issue from a pacifist viewpoint built on deeply held beliefs. I respect that. Others on the left, such as the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, are more pragmatic and see the high-value jobs that are done as a vital strategic part of the Scottish economy. The position of the SNP is far more craven. It knows that the defence sector would be destroyed in the event of independence, as the hon. Gentleman outlined. SNP Members use defence diversification as a way of distracting people, because the truth is that they do not care much about jobs or about defence; they just care about independence, as was seen in their conference in Edinburgh at the weekend. According to that separatist vision, Scotland’s workers, savers and pensioners would give up the pound for a valueless currency yet to be named, and there no frigates would be built on the Clyde if they ever got their way.