Tristan Stewart-Robertson, Chief Reporter/
UNCERTAINTY over the future of contracts for new frigates to be built in Scotstoun continues.
A government minister and a Ministry of Defence boss both admitted they don’t know when work will start on the vital warship order for the BAE yards on both sides of the Clyde.
MoD chief executive for equipment Tony Douglas told MPs the delay was down to design issues and cash was not in question.
The SNP claimed the situation means the ships will be “delayed indefinitely”.
But union bosses insisted the contract was still guaranteed, despite the delays and there would be no redundancies resulting from the uncertainty.
Thousands of jobs at Govan and Scotstoun are depending on the Type 26 frigates contract and delays could make it difficult to retain the highly-skilled workforce.
Last month, former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West, told the House of Commons Defence Committee “there’s almost no money available this year, and we are really strapped next year”.
Defence minister Harriett Baldwin couldn’t give the committee a date when shipbuilding would begin and neither could Mr Douglas.
But union officials BAE bosses were negotiating with the MoD to resolve the timetable.
Duncan McPhee from Unite told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “There is guarantees. The guarantees are that the eight ships will be built on the Clyde, we’ve had that confirmed. The main issue is the timetable, which is causing us the real problems and that has to be sorted out as soon as possible.
“It means for jobs that we have the workforce geared up for this programme and that workforce will remain.
“It means that we are going to have to do a lot of things between the company and moving different work packages about, keeping people at Rosyth maybe for longer working on the aircraft carriers, maybe having to transfer people down to Barrow for the submarine programme so we will keep the jobs.
“The one thing that the trade unions will not be accepting in the workforce is any redundancies. We’ve been through our redundancy programme and we won’t entertain any more of that.”
The row over the contract was reduced to a Twitter spat between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, harking back to promises to Clyde shipyard workers during the independence referendum. The SNP has repeatedly decried the delays as a “betrayal”.
Local MSP Bill Kidd said: “The concerns being felt by the workers and their union reps at the Scotstoun and Govan yards, their families and the wider community are very reasonable in the face of the Tory Westminster government refusing to honour their vow to build the Type 26 frigates here; not only in the promised numbers but now, it seems, possibly at all.
“I want an unequivocal statement of intent from Theresa May and Ruth Davidson the Tory leader in Scotland that these boats will be built, with both the numbers and a timescales included, and I know the workers and their families want this information now.”
Lord West said the delays were down to the designs only being 60 per cent complete.
He said: “If you were building an extension on the back of your house, you wouldn’t get it priced if it was only 60 per cent designed.”
The union argues the issue is money, not design.
Mr McPhee added: “It is definitely financially driven. Nobody thinks it is design.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme.
“Over the next decade, we will spend around £8bn on Royal Navy warships and, because Scotland voted to remain part of the UK in 2014, will continue to be an important manufacturing base for them.”
Original post @clydebankpost.co.uk
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