There have been claims on social media that the awarding of five frigates to Babcock at Rosyth is a bribe due to Scottish independence, but that claim doesn’t add up.

Rosyth is to build 5 Type 31e Frigates while the Clyde is building 8 Type 26 Frigates (plus the five Batch 2 Arive4 Class ships).

There’s a straightforward reason the claim doesn’t add up, Type 31e Frigate work has been planned since 2015.

According to the 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review:

“We will maintain one of the most capable anti-submarine fleets in the world with the introduction of eight advanced Type 26 Global Combat Ships, which will start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role. We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers.

We will also launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers. These general purpose frigates are also likely to offer increased export potential.”

Many claims also focus on the timing of the contract announcement (happening at defence industry trade show DSEI this month), claiming that it’s perfect timing for an upcoming general election. The issue? The announcement has long bene planned for 2019.

In 2017, we reported here that the Type 31e Frigates will be ordered in 2019.

The timing of the announcement coincides with a major defence trade show, that’s about all.

What’s the story?

The initial Type 26 frigate order was cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending outlined in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, a move that has been widely expected since 2013.

The original plan for the Type 26 was 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and 5 general purpose variants. This changed to 8 Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates and five Type 31 general purpose frigates, a lighter and cheaper design than the Type 26.

BAE Systems announced it no longer intended to bid to assemble the Type 31e on the Clyde in order to focus on the Type 26 Frigates. BAE themselves say that shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s while the Ministry of Defence want the first of the new Type 31 Frigates in service by 2023.

BAE say the move will allow them to ‘appropriately support the National Shipbuilding Strategy’ whilst ensuring the delivery of the five Offshore Patrol Vessels and the first three City class Type 26 frigates currently on contract, ‘to time, budget and to the highest quality standards.’

Why has the plan changed?

The MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement by spreading shipbuilding across civil and naval yards. To this end, the government are implementing the results of an independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy was intended to be a “radical, fundamental re-appraisal of how we undertake the shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing”.

BAE themselves signalled their own reluctance to bid for the Type 31 Frigate as prime contractor due to concerns of a “race to the bottom” on price.

Speaking to The Herald here, BAE managing director Iain Stevenson said:

“We do want to be involved in Type 31. But we have questions. Does it have a budget? What are the timescales. We have not got solid facts. Type 31 could be a race to the bottom. If it is a front price contract people might bid for it to win and it and it might put them out of business. We would not, because we are BAE Systems.”

What has been built on the Clyde since 2014 and what are the yards planning on building in future?

So, what does the prospective order-book BAE are talking about actually look like for the next few decades? We’ve included the contracted and non-contracted work the Clyde is expected to build to give an idea of the scale of work already present as BAE cite this as a reason for not bidding for the Type 31e to be assembled on the Clyde.

Ordering in batches is common for projects of this size around the world and was last seen with the Royal Navy for the Type 45 Destroyers and recent Offshore Patrol Vessels. The Type 45s first batch order was for three vessels. Ordering this way allows for changes to specifications and allows for refinements to contracts as working practices evolve and efficiencies are learned.


The Type 31e Frigate has been planned since 2015, the announcement of who has won the contract to build the ships has also been long planned. For those unfamiliar with the industry, these two points may not be known.

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Unless I’m missing something, you haven’t actually given a legitimate reason that Rosyth being given the work wouldn’t be a bribe. Just because the T31 programme started in 2015, doesn’t mean awarding it to a Scottish yard wouldn’t be a bribe. If they’d announced the winning yard before the SNP started pushing for Indyref2, then it couldn’t be a bribe. Instead, they’re announcing it now, so possible Scottish independence is clearly going to influence the decision both ways. Either government decides it needs an English yard as a backup in case of independence, or it decides backing another Scottish yard… Read more »

Samuel James

Dear NatBot, Babcock/OMT/BMT announced back in May 2018 the yards it would be using if it won the tender. Since then Appledore and H&W have both gone. So you’d expect the majority of the workshare to go to the remaining two yards. “Arrowhead 140’s distributed build and assembly approach, comprising Babcock Appledore in North Devon, Ferguson Marine on the Clyde, Harland and Wolff in Belfast with integration at Babcock Rosyth, Fife , optimises the partners’ first-class UK facilities, innovation and skills whilst cleverly ensuring capacity for parallel programmes remains. All of which is geared to generate a genuine resurgence in… Read more »


Not sure why Westminster would want to award part of the order to Ferguson Marine, its now run by the SNP who have said Scottish shipbuilding can be successful without UK defence orders. Well now they have a chance to prove it, reject the T31 orders and go it alone. Cammell Liard could be offered the blocks, every ones happy. SNP can prove they don’t need RoUK and Cammell Liard get some work from T31. Camell Liard, H & W and Rosythe sounds like a balanced UK consortium.


Join the discussion… That makes perfect sense to me lets hope the decision makers come to the same conclusion.


Is “bribe” really the optimum description/word, even if Indyref2 has/had a bearing at any point in the timeline?
As a Union/Nation, we appear to be tearing ourselves apart, with the EU taking advantage over the ‘Divisive’ NI backstop.
We all know what infighting has brought down the centuries!

Nick Bowman

I think you have to trust the integrity of those selecting the design. They will pick the right one for the navy. The politics surrounding the location of their build will be of peripheral interest. It has been reported that the Arrowhead 140 will be announced as the winner. If so, that would appear to be a good choice. I’m just a little surprised that a design that physically large would be selected. The ship will be sixty feet longer than a Type 42 destroyer and will displace substantially more. I’m sure that this large ship will have plenty of… Read more »


I’m not surprised a large design was chosen, the hull is a relatively a small part of the overall cost. With a larger hull space you have flexibility to select from a wider range of commercially available equipment. Imagine areas of the ship like the galley, waste disposal and treatment, etc being able to choose from a much bigger supplier base because they don’t have size restrictions or need custom parts to fit a combined space. Also through life cost can be kept down more space around components means there easier to work on, you may not need to remove… Read more »


It’s not a bribe as no sane PM is every going to agree to another IndyRef for Scotland. The power to hold such a referendum resides at Westminster.
Now Scotland could go and have its own illegal referendum, Catalonia style, but it wouldn’t be legally binding or recognised by anyone. And it’s not exactly worked out well for the organisers in Catalonia has it…?


‘No sane PM…’ that’s the problem. We may be seeing Jezza in No.10 shortly……


Not anymore than normal. It is perfectly normal for Governments to attempt to do their best for communities around the Country and expect to get votes in return. The Government will clearly be pumping money into the Coastal Powerhouse in England very shortly (devolved Governments will have to decide about their communities). I’m guessing the Government just wants to keep the status quo at the moment. I doubt that any sane Government would agree to a referendum in future which doesn’t require at least 60% or 2/3 of the vote after the Brexit debacle. It would also need a gap… Read more »


Scotland has me confused they asked for a independence vote they got it and the vote was stay since then the mod has spent money on the raf base for the submarine patrol craft,as well as more money on the submarine base yet little Krankie is still shouting for another vote,what is wrong with them..


It’s not Scotland calling for independence, it’s the SNP. I’d imagine the Scots are just as tired of all the politicians screaming for referendums and people’s votes and the like as the rest of us


completely agree with all this referendum crap just wish they would act like adults instead of children


Scotland has had cuts too, many bases closing. But like Callum said it’s the SNP not scotland, the majority of Scotland voted to stay in the UK, I don’t know why anyone votes for the SNP in scotland! Those slippery fish suck.

Mark L

If a general election is called before DSEI then there won’t be any announcements by the government at the show. They will be banned under the purdah rules.

Robert Stevenson

Point of order “BAE announced it no longer intended to bid to assemble the Type 31e on the Clyde” they never intended to do so. Its entire capacity would be taken up build the Type 26 Frigate as the 2 Billion Frigate factory was never built due to independence issues, so no room to manoeuvre and the Leander-class was going to be built at Cammell’s in Birkenhead


Not sure how they will maintain the most capable anti-sub fleet or anything else with only 8 ships. That’s hardly enough to patrol the waters surrounding GB let alone other international hotspots.


Yeah If Canada And OZ both get the full works in terms of anti submarine gear on all their type 26 ships then that really sucks! The RN will have less capable anti submarine ships than both! I never thought I would see that. We used to have a large capable and actually the best anti submarine navy! What a joke.


Yet unlike Oz, Canada, and most of the world, the RN’s reduced ASW fleet is going to be operating as part of and alongside carrier battle groups and nuclear deterrents. What are you on about not getting the full works in terms of ASW gear? While the Canadian equipment fit hasn’t been confirmed, both the T26 and Hunter will use the exact same hull and TA sonars. The only difference is the Hunter has MU90 torpedoes, but surface launched torpedoes aren’t particularly effective in modern ASW anyway. Helicopters and ASROC are what you need, and we have the advantage in… Read more »

Barry Hooper

The national shipbuilding strategy is a shambles and as for the mod to go on about adhering to the NSS is rubbish. Harlands in Belfast in administration, Ferguson s in administration and babcock closed Appledore so wheres their consortium they’ve gone A big conspiracy to keep shipbuilding in scotland at the cost to all other uk yards.


In amongst all the talk of bribes to Scotland, unfair on England, etc.

Has anyone considered that as nice as other designs may or may not be, it might be that regardless of build yard the Navy didn’t like the design or the bids weren’t compliant. According to rumours lack of compliance halted process before and could have well have killed some bids again.


We have like a dozen different pages debating the merits of the different ships. It’s a fairly universal consensus that the Arrowhead is the best ship overall, the debate is primarily on the best fit for the T31 competition. That debate is primarily economic and political, so the actual ship is kind of a minor part of the decision now. On one hand, CL supported by BAES building a smaller design is likely to be safer, with greater potential for more hulls, and built in England as security against independence. Against that, Babcock at Rosyth offers a bigger hull with… Read more »

andy reeves