Shipyard workers in Glasgow have been “let down and betrayed” by the UK Government after it announced plans for work on new warships to be split up across different sites, Nicola Sturgeon said.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the first batch of five new Type 31e frigates could be built in blocks across several British shipyards and then assembled at a central hub.
The ships, and the eight new Type 26 frigates that are being built in Glasgow, will replace part of the Navy fleet which is being phased out.
Scotland’s First Minister accused the Conservative administration of pulling back from a pledge that the yards on the River Clyde would be a “frigate factory” for the Navy.
Ms Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside, 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.”
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.
Ms Sturgeon said: ” 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.”
She added: ” I have long argued the case for the shipyards on the Clyde and will continue to do so, so the assurance is that the Scottish Government will continue to argue their case and do everything we can to protect their futures, as we always have done.”
The new Type 31e frigates are due to be in service by 2023, and their cost will be capped at a maximum of £250 million each – with shipyards being encouraged to ensure the vessel is competitive on the global market..
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, the chairman of mining giant Anglo American.
In November, Sir John said the Navy fleet was being depleted by a “vicious cycle” of old ships retained beyond their sell-by date, and found that the procurement of naval ships took too long from concept to delivery compared with other industries.
Sir Michael said: “This new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing Royal Navy that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world.
“Backed up by a commitment to spend billions on new ships, our plan will help boost jobs, skills and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK.”
The Defence Secretary also stressed the BAE Systems yard at Govan would be able to bid for the new contract.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: ” The Clyde are getting eight frigates, the anti-submarine frigates, without competition and that is 20 years of work for just one yard.
“There is a huge frigate building programme on the Clyde but the remaining five frigates in the programme we’re opening up to competition. Govan can compete for that, so can Fergusons further down the Clyde, they could be built at Rosyth. Any of the yards in Britain will be free to compete.”
Gary Cook, GMB Scotland organiser and Scottish chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), warned the approach could lead to a “dog eat dog environment with yards across the country competing for the Type-31 work”.
Mr Cook said: “Although the future of the Upper Clyde is secure until the 2030s through the Type-26 programme, the promised ‘frigate factory’, vital to the UK’s ability to compete in the global market, has been shelved.
“And of more pressing concern is how this strategy going to defend the 3,800 jobs currently supported by the Rosyth yard when the aircraft carrier contract work reaches its conclusion.
“The truth is that work from the Type-31 programme will not be enough to sustain current levels of employment and skills, both direct and supply chain, at Rosyth.”