By Joan McAlpine
We'll never sell shipyard workers down the river
WHILE the threat of job losses could hang over workers at the Clyde shipyards, it's not a time to use the possible crisis as a means to gain political points.
NEWS of a threat to jobs on the Clyde should have provoked just one reaction – how do we save them?
How cynical of Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy MP to use the crisis to score points.
No wonder the Scottish Trade Union Congress this weekend refused to join the Labour-Tory No Campaign if this is how they behave.
The new threat to 3000 shipbuilding jobs has absolutely nothing to do with Scotland’s future as a country. It’s happening now, on the UK watch, partly as a result of UK defence cuts.
BAE Systems, who own the yards, fear their order book will not be large enough to sustain three bases – Govan, Yarrow and Portsmouth. One site may have to close or reduce its workforce, with an announcement expected later this year.
If that yard was in Glasgow, it would make a mockery of claims that voting No to independence will guarantee jobs on the Clyde. The decline of the great names of the Clyde – John Brown, Scott Lithgow, Harland and Wolff, all happened under Labour and Tory governments in London.
However, the future looks brighter for today’s workers. Industry experts have suggested Portsmouth was most at risk of closure, as the smallest of the three.
Yarrow and Govan have an advantage in that they work closely together, with workers transferring between yards.
If Portsmouth shut, all warship building capacity in these islands would be located in Scotland. If we become independent, we remain in a prime position to win UK Navy work, because we have the experienced, capable workforce, the technological ability, plus we are close neighbours and partners in Nato. This scuppers the arguments of the anti-independence parties.
Of course, the Bitter Together No campaign will say we will have to compete with other yards around the world. But this is happening anyway, under the union. European rules mean orders must go out to tender.
The Koreans won a major Royal Navy contract for a support vessel not long ago.
So staying in the union does not guarantee anything.
In fact, the deep defence cuts at UK level mean there will no longer be a steady stream of orders from Whitehall.
The latest memorandum of understanding between BAE and the UK government makes it clear the yards must win export orders to prosper.
This marks a major change in direction. The aircraft carrier and Type 45 destroyer currently being completed for the Royal Navy were highly specialised craft. Other navies could not afford them.
The new Type 26 frigate is different – known as the global combat vessel, its design can be adapted to suit the needs of navies around the world.
So it’s not voters in Scotland who will decide the future of the Clyde’s greatest industry. It’s customers in countries like Brazil and China.
One thing we do know. An independent Scottish government will fight tooth and nail to support BAE in its efforts to win those orders for Glasgow.
Just look at what happens now.
Scotland is the most successful location in the UK for attracting inward investment in terms of jobs, according to a survey by Ernst and Young.
Our exports have been growing by about four per cent a year. We struck major deals with China, for example, to sell food and drink.
When Alex Salmond and his ministers go to Beijing, Chicago or Qatar, they’ve got one thing in mind – sealing deals to benefit Scotland. Do you think UK ministers on trade delegations are nearly as focused on Scottish companies?
Clyde shipbuilding is a global brand that immediately says good quality.
An independent Scottish government will ensure that brand remains a world leader.