THE Deputy First Minister was meeting BAE Systems directors and union officials on Friday amid a political row about the future of the shipbuilding industry in an independent Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon was being joined by Finance Secretary John Swinney on a visit to BAE’s Scotstoun yard following the defence giant’s announcement that 1,775 jobs are to go across the UK.
The move will affect hundreds of workers at the Scotstoun and Govan yards in Glasgow as well as at Rosyth in Fife.
Shipbuilding is to end at Portsmouth in the second half of next year but the Clyde yards have been earmarked to build the new Type 26 warships, providing a vital lifeline to the workforce.
Alistair Carmichael, the UK Government’s Scottish Secretary, has suggested that Portsmouth would be “well placed” for the contract in the event of Scottish independence.
But Ms Sturgeon insists that new naval warships could still be built north of the border even if the country leaves the UK.
Speaking after meeting management and unions at the Clyde yards yesterday, Mr Carmichael said the Scottish Government had questions to answer about shipbuilding if Scotland votes Yes in next year’s referendum.
“It is simply rash to say over 2,000 skilled Scottish jobs would be better served by the vague hope of future collaboration and joint procurement when, in the here and now as part of the UK, we are providing certainty for the industry and the many livelihoods which depend on it,” he said.
“There is a double standard at the heart of their position. On the one hand they say an independent Scotland would build Scottish Navy ships here and nowhere else. On the other, they expect the UK - which they would like to leave - not to follow the same path.
“The Deputy First Minister has not explained how she would bypass the EU rules on competition to place UK warships contracts with a separate Scottish state.
“The whole point is that the UK works hard to retain a sovereign warship building capability at home. If Scotland leaves the UK, it would no longer be part of that arrangement.”
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme yesterday: ‘’The Type 26, assuming MoD does decide to go ahead, these ships will be built on the Clyde because - as BAE said yesterday and the Defence Secretary said yesterday - it is the best place to build them, because of the investment we’ve seen in these yards, because of the skill mix and because of the value for money.
‘’We are talking about a UK Government that has put a military contract in Korea. It really does underline how preposterous it is that a UK Government having an arrangement with Scotland would be a perfectly credible and sensible thing to do.’’
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The UK has never outside of the two World Wars built complex warships outside the UK.”
He added: “I see no reason to expect that the UK would want to change from the position that we will build complex warships in the UK for reasons of maintaining sovereign capability in the future.”
BAE said 940 jobs would go at Portsmouth, while 835 will be lost in Glasgow, Rosyth, and at Filton near Bristol.
Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to offer a jobs guarantee to Clyde shipyard workers in the event of Scottish independence during a visit to Edinburgh yesterday.
Mr Miliband was asked to say whether he, as a potential future prime minister, would offer to protect the work on the Clyde irrespective of the referendum result.
“The best way, not just on naval capacity and shipbuilding, but on currency and economic policy, is for Scotland to stay part of the United Kingdom,” he said.