Is it Worth It?
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding…
As the referendum kicked off there was lots of talk about ‘things getting dirty’. Now we know what was meant. Yesterday Ian Davidson, Better Together’s favourite attack-dog, whose Glasgow South West constituency includes BAE’s Govan yard, suggested a “break clause” in the event of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, meaning the contract for Type 26 frigates would revert back to the UK Government to be reconsidered.
An announcement is expected soon on the contract for 13 frigates, with each vessel estimated to cost £250m-£350million. Davidson says the UK Government does not build warships in other countries (not strictly true) and he believes the decision cannot wait until after next September’s vote. The “break clause” suggestion was described by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “outrageous”.
Today 835 shipyard jobs are under threat in Scotland as BAE Systems announces 1,775 UK job losses. But the political machine is in full spin-cycle and we can expect the English chattering classes to shift into apoplexy by the evening news cycle.
This morning, Tory BBC anchor Nick Robinson @bbcnickrobinson reported: “The Defence Sec says no order will be placed for 13 new frigates until end of next year when design clear (oh & after result of Scot referendum)”, adding telling “Have English shipyard workers paid to keep jobs in Scotland? Could a foreign country build “UK” warships?” See his blog here. It’s desperate stuff (the answers are ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ respectively).
Troubled No campaign spin-doctor Simon Pia @SimonPia1 weighed in saying: “Govan union chair just said on BBC GMS referendum playing part in problem facing BAE yards”.
It’s all desperate stuff hinging on the reality expressed more soberly by Severin Carrell in the Guardian:
The future of the two BAE shipyards on the Clyde is pivotal to the debate over Scottish independence and to the claim by the UK government and Labour that Scotland benefits directly from a union dividend.
UK ministers have made it clear they are acutely aware of the significance to next September’s independence referendum of the fate of the thousands of shipbuilding jobs at Govan and Scotstoun, in Glasgow. Those jobs are currently protected by the project to build two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy .
If either yard were to close, that would undermine their case that Scotland benefits materially and significantly from being part of the UK. It would also weaken Labour’s power base in Glasgow, which is being challenged by the Scottish National party (SNP), and diminish the influence of the industrial trade unions.
But let’s look at the bigger picture.
The MOD have admitted they are building aircraft carriers they can’t afford to put planes on and are only carrying on with the commission because it was too expensive to pull out. Are we really at the stage where we are so dysfunctional as a society and as an economy where we have to build huge hulking lumps of metal to sail around the world because we can’t think of a better way to employ people?
The wider question is why our entire shipbuilding industry is focused around military requirements? This just ties us to a pork barrel politics of Westminster handouts and manipulation. What we should be doing is looking at diversifying the industry to new and varied areas. The Norwegian example shows how their indigenous shipbuilding industry feeds into their oil, fishing, research and protectorate fleets.