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Split Scotland 'can build UK ships'

New naval warships could still be built in Scotland even if it leaves the UK, the country's Deputy First Minister has insisted.

Nicola Sturgeon rebuffed suggestions that a vote for independence in next year's referendum would mean shipyards on the Clyde in Glasgow would lose out on work to build Type 26 warships.

BAE has announced 1,775 jobs are to go across the UK, with shipbuilding to end at Portsmouth in the second half of next year.

Hundreds of jobs will be lost in Scotland, at the yards at Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow as well as Rosyth in Fife, but work on the new Type 26 vessels has been earmarked for the Glasgow yards, giving workers there a vital lifeline.

UK Government ministers have hinted this work could go elsewhere if Scots vote Yes to independence next September.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said if that was the case, the UK would not want the work to go to Scotland and Portsmouth could be "well placed" for the contract.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted the Clyde was the "best place" for the new ships to be built.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: " The Type 26, assuming MoD does decide to go ahead , these ships will be built on the Clyde because - as BAE said yesterday and the Defence Secretary said yesterday - it is the best place to build them, because of the investment we've seen in these yards, because of the skill mix and because of the value for money."

Ms Sturgeon, speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, said: "We are talking about a UK Government that has put a military contract in Korea. It really does underline how preposterous it is that a UK Government having an arrangement with Scotland would be a perfectly credible and sensible thing to do."

Mr Carmichael told the BBC yesterday: ''If Scotland is no longer part of the country, then it's difficult to see how this work will go to Scotland.''

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: ''The UK has never outside of the two world wars built complex warships outside the UK."

He added: " 'I see no reason to expect that the UK would want to change from the position that we will build complex warships in the UK for reasons of maintaining sovereign capability in the future.''

But Ms Sturgeon said that as well as the contract the Ministry of Defence had placed for military vessels to be be built in Korea, the Royal Navy leased ships from Norway.

She added: "The practical point is Philip Hammond and BAE said very clearly yesterday that the Clyde was the value for money option."

However some politicians suggested Portsmouth was being hit harder for Scotland because of the independence referendum next year.

BAE said 940 jobs would go in Portsmouth, while 835 will be lost in Glasgow, Rosyth and Filton, near Bristol.

While shipbuilding operations will end in Portsmouth in the second half of next year, an engineering team will be retained to support the new Type 26 warships, which are to be built in Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon said the "regrettable decision" to end shipbuilding at Portsmouth meant that " there will be nowhere else in the UK geared up and viable" to build the Type 26 warships than the Clyde yards.

She also said it was "r egrettable that so quickly after such a large announcement about job losses yesterday we saw this political game playing".

She stressed: " The bigger point, regardless of the independence referendum outcome, is how we secure the long-term future of our shipyards. Because if we don't think about Type 26 not with standing, a few years from now we're going to be here again.

"We have to think about how we secure the future for the longer term."

She said yesterday's job losses were a " devastating blow to the shipbuilding industry" and represented a "further downsizing" of the sector

"So while there is relief in Scotland that Govan shipyard is not closing, I also detect a realisation that we have to think longer term about the security and sustainability of our shipbuilding industry," she said

"We can have a sustainable shipbuilding industry, but it can't for the long term be solely dependent on naval contracts."

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, yesterday condemned the decision to shut down the last remaining shipyard in England with the capability to build advanced surface warships, saying it was bad news for the defence of the UK and for the Royal Navy.

''The remaining yards with the capability to build advanced warships are in Scotland, and the referendum on Scottish independence is less than one year away. Ministers have put the defence of the UK and the future of the Navy at real risk,'' he said.

The announcement was branded a politically motivated ''act of lunacy'' by Portsmouth Conservative councillor Alistair Thompson, who said: ' ''Many of those who I represent as a councillor are hugely concerned that this decision has been taken for political reasons because of the referendum in Scotland next year.''


From Belfast Telegraph