A leading trade union official who urged Scots to vote No during the 2014 independence campaign claiming it would protect shipbuilding jobs has said he is “not happy” after learning a key pledge given to Scottish shipbuilders during that same campaign has been broken.
Duncan McPhee, a senior shop steward with Unite at BAE systems Scotstoun yard was responding to news that Type 31e Frigates initially promised to Clydeside yards will now be built on Merseyside.
The news was confirmed in a press release issued by BAE systems, the company which owns the Scotstoun and Govan yards. The statement confirmed that BAE Systems will partner with Cammell Laird, who would ‘Prime, build and assemble’ the vessels at their Merseyside facility.
Responding, McPhee said: “We are not happy, these are ships we would have expected to be built on the Clyde. As far as we are concerned they should have been part of the 13 ship package we were clearly promised.”
The news is a devastating blow to Clydeside workers who were promised thirteen Type 26 Frigates during the independence referendum.
McPhee, the Unite union convenor at Scotstoun, encouraged by the promise from the UK government, urged fellow Scots to reject independence during the referendum campaign claiming the future of Scottish shipbuilding depended on Scotland remaining in the UK.
Duncan McPhee and John Dolan, GMB Convenor at the same shipyard, jointly authored a piece in which they argued that being “better together” was good for Scottish shipbuilding.
In the article, entitled ‘A Future for Scottish Shipbuilding on the Clyde’, the two union officials wrote: “BAE has announced its intention to close one of its UK yards and the uncertainty of the independence referendum has put the Clyde shipyards at risk.”
They added: “We believe our industry is one of the best examples of why we are better together, because the benefits to being part of the UK are very real.”
However, immediately after the September 2014 vote which returned a win for the pro-Union camp, the promised thirteen Type 26 frigates was unexpectedly reduced to eight. The expectation that the shortfall would be replaced by Type 31 frigates has been dashed with today’s announcement.
SNP Defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald MP said the decision was a “slap in the face for the Clyde yards”.
He added: “We have the skills, the expertise, the infrastructure in Scotland – but what we have also had is years of promises from Westminster – that have been broken.
“A key component of a steady stream of work for Scottish shipbuilding is this new T31e smaller frigate. So the suggestion they will be built elsewhere is of real concern.”
The announcement is the latest in a series of broken pledges made to Scots during the independence referendum. Other pledges that have since been broken include protection of HMRC jobs, support for renewable projects and of course membership of the European Union.
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