Westminster Betrays Clyde Dockworkers! There’s a surprise!

First, there were 13, then there were none guaranteed, then there were 8 and all the while Labour and the Tories in Scotland have tried to re-write the narrative claiming “promise delivered”. My eye!

Today the Shipbuilding unions have woken up to the fact that the promises made by the UK Government and the Better Together campaign have all the consistency of wet pasta and are reeling from the announcement that in actual fact another promise was infact only a promise of possibly building in Scotland.

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Shipbuilding unions have been told that the MoD is reneging on a promise to a build five new navy frigates on the Clyde.

Michael Fallon had previously announced that five Type 31e frigates would be built on the clyde, but it now transpires that the “would” is more of a “could”.

Unions at the Govan and Scotstoun yards said the work had previously been promised to them.

The five new ships which were to replace the 5 type 26 destroyers which will not be built in Scotland despite promises and the UK Government intends to put them out to tender for any yard to bid on, He insisted it was right to open the contracts up to competition, I say that they have broken yet another promise. Indeed every single promise made by the Better Together campaign has been proven to be a lie.

An initial contract for the Type 26 programme was based on the assumption that 13 would be built – but that number was later cut to eight following the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015.

It was also confirmed that five of the lighter and cheaper Type 31 frigates would be built to make up the shortfall in numbers.

When he confirmed in November of last year that the eight Type 26 frigates would be built on the Clyde, Sir Michael said that the five smaller frigate would also be built there.

Sir Michael has now confirmed that the contract for the Type 31 will be opened up for yards across the UK to bid on, meaning that the work is not guaranteed to come to Scotland.

The move could see the ships built in blocks across several British shipyards and then assembled at a central hub, similar to the approach taken for the Navy’s biggest ever ship, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was assembled at the Rosyth yard in Fife.

The new Type 31e frigates are due to be in service by 2023, and their cost will be capped at a maximum of £250m each so they can be sold to other countries.

Sir Michael Fallon

The plans form part of a new national shipbuilding strategy which accepts the recommendations of an independent report into the industry by Sir John Parker.

It follows BAE Systems scaling back plans to build a £200m-£300m “frigate factory” at Scotstoun that would have been capable of mass-producing warships for export.

Gary Cook of the GMB union said the Clyde yards had originally been promised that a total of 13 frigates would be built there as part of a plan that saw hundreds of jobs being lost at the yards and the Portsmouth dockyard closing in 2013.

Mr Cook told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “These five frigates which Fallon is talking about today were promised to the Clyde as part of the massive cuts.

“In return, we would have had a state-of-the-art frigate factory to be able to produce the ships at the price that the MoD wished to pay, and we could attract foreign orders.”

But he said there was “no frigate factory, and now no five ships” and that “there has definitely been a reneging – there has been a betrayal on the 13 frigates on the Upper Clyde”.


In the run up to the 2014 independence referendum, unionist politicians stressed that staying in the UK was necessary to secure the future of Scotland’s shipbuilding industry.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “I think people should be looking to the UK government and reflecting on the fact there has been lots of promises made to the Clyde but more often than not those promises are broken.”

She added: “Certainly for the Clyde it is only a couple of years ago that workers were being promised a frigate factory on the Clyde – there’s no mention of that today.

“So this is about cost cutting and it is another demonstration of the damage that is being done to conventional defence infrastructure by the UK government’s obsession with spending billions and billions of pounds on Trident.

“I think workers on the Clyde today have every right to feel let down and betrayed.”

The irony of the entire story here is that if Scotland was independent, the country would be preparing to build its own navy. The whitepaper delivered in 2014 meant that a total of 26 ships would need to be built between several destroyers and appropriate support vessels. This would not only be large scale construction but ultimately mean the work for refits and maintainance. Of course there is always the elephant in the room that nobody talks about and that is the non-compete contracts impossed on the shipyards by the MOD which prevents them from engaging in other activities outside of certain tasks while under contract for the military. This while good when we are building for the navy, ultimately means that when Westminster pulls this sort of stunt, shipyards have nowhere to go. It is stalling the natural development of Scotlands shipbuilding companies.

Ferries, tugs, tankers, cruise ships, cargo vessels – these are just some of the civilian ships which could be built in Scotland.

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