It was one of the three key issues of the 2014 independence referendum. Behind membership of the European Union and currency there was shipbuilding.
A Yes vote was going to see the yards at Govan and Scotstoun close. That was the stick. The carrot came in the form of thirteen Type 26 frigates. So believable was the campaign that workers at Govan and Scotstoun appeared in Better Together campaign literature.
It was a cruel hoax perpetrated by Scottish Labour and Lib Dem politicians working hand-in-glove with a Tory Prime Minister. They were helped by an unscrupulous pro-Union media that cared little for the workers at the yards. There was never going to be thirteen Type 26 frigates.
No sooner had fifty five per cent of Scots voted No to independence than the pledges given to the Clydeside workers and their gullible trade union representatives began melting away. The thirteen Type 26 frigates became eight. Ah, said Unionists, we’re making up the shortfall with at least five of a new type of frigate.
On November 23rd 2015, after facing questions from SNP MP Angus Robertson who pointed out the broken Type 26 pledge, David Cameron promised not only a further five of the new type of frigates, but there would probably be more for the Clyde.
Cameron’s pledge was confirmed five months later during the 2016 Holyrood campaign by Ruth Davidson after fears were raised that the pledges might not be as cast-iron as people had been led to believe.
On Wednesday the whole sham all but collapsed when it emerged the Clydeside yards would not in fact be building the lighter vessels after all. The Type 31e Frigates, as they were now known, would be built south of the border.
BAE Systems, the owners of the Govan and Scotstoun yards, had entered into an agreement with Cammell Laird. The joint-consortium would be competing with the Babcock/BMT consortium for the Type 31e contract. Even if the BAE/Cammell Laird bid should win, as second partner in their joint bid, the work would not go to BAE yards, but to Cammell Laird’s Merseyside facility.
The Scottish yards have been sold down the river. As things stand the Clydeside yards are currently guaranteed only three Type 26 Frigates. Any addition to this number is at the whim of a UK Government that has already broken not one but two promises.
And where is our media as this sad fiasco unfolds? Nowhere to be seen. As Wings Over Scotland has so ably highlighted, the media has shown a remarkable lack of interest in this story. A couple of half-arsed articles from newspapers that helped punt the original Indyref pledge. The rest have turned a blind eye.
A special contempt should be held for BBC Scotland. The broadcaster has an obligation to report without fear or favour. We are compelled to pay a licence fee for the privelege of having impartial, neutral news coverage. Yet as I write this late on Thursday evening, there has been not one mention of the story from our so-called national broadcaster.
Should we be surprised? Probably not, when you consider that back in November 2016 BBC Scotland actually reported that an Indyref pledge to build eight Type 26 Frigates was to be honoured. Yes that’s correct, according to the BBC the Indyref pledge was not for thirteen but for eight.
The bulletins prompted a complaint by a listener who pointed out that the pledge made during the referendum campaign was for thirteen Type 26 frigates and not eight as the BBC had claimed. The complaint also alleged that listeners would have been misled into believing a UK government indyref pledge was soon to be honoured when in fact the reality was that it had been broken.
The complaint resulted in the programme producer issuing a private apology. Despite the apology, the BBC refused to broadcast any correction and also refused to accept the pledge was for thirteen frigates.
In its ruling the BBC Trust said: “Trustees agreed that while various UK ministers had warned of the possible impact of a Yes vote on future MoD contracts, they had seen no evidence that the UK Government had made a specific campaign pledge to build thirteen Type 26 frigates or eight Type 26 frigates on the Clyde before the referendum.”
The BBC doesn’t believe any specific pledge was made during the independence referendum. Not for thirteen frigates, not even for eight. If it can convince itself of that, then is it any wonder it feels no obligation to run the latest episode of this sorry tale?
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