Nicola Sturgeon was criticised for her party suggesting that Britain’s new Type 26 frigates would be built in Scotland if the campaign for independence was successful.

There has also been criticism from many in industry over the continued use of the yards as a ‘political football’. A press release on the SNP website, written by the First Minister states:

“Workers won a contract for 13 Type 26 frigates and have already had to watch that be cut back to only eight vessels by the UK Government.

Now there are doubts over the timetable for these vessels and for other work due to come to the Clyde – which trade unions warn could lead to a loss of up to 800 jobs.”

Another article, this time written by Joan McAlpine a list MSP for the South of Scotland, said:

“During the referendum shipbuilding workers on the Clyde were made a series of promises by the Tories about the future of their jobs – and won a contract for 13 Type 26 frigates. This has already been cut to 8 frigates and now there are doubts over the timetable for the work beginning.”

It is worth noting, work on the Clyde has not been cut. The yards are expected to work on 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and 6 Type 31 Frigates. This is in fact 19 vessels compared to the original plan for 13.

The original plan for the Type 26 had been eight anti-submarine warfare variants and five general purpose variants, this remains largely unchanged except for the design of the later five vessels,which are now referred to as Type 31. Two additional Offshore Patrol Vessels, making a total of five vessels of the type, were announced as part of the last Strategic Defence & Security Review.

The Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction. The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017.

In November, after confirming that the Type 26 Frigate would be built on the Clyde, Michael Fallon also indicated that the Type 31 Frigate will be assembled there too.

Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland:

“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships.

After that, the Clyde will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”

Shipbuilding trade union leaders had previously told Ms Sturgeon to stop “using” them by claiming that British warships would continue to be built on the Clyde in the event of independence as they know that not to be the case.

Nicola Sturgeon had earlier insisted that it would be a “betrayal” to go back on its promise to build the frigate fleet on the Clyde. Sturgeon said:

“Promises were made about orders to these yards and promises were made about jobs at these yards, and I think it is absolutely vital now these contracts are delivered.

These yards have been through some really difficult times with a reduction in the workforce, and they thought that that was all part of the process of getting themselves into shape for the Type 26 and securing a level of employment here.

This is about jobs and securing jobs in an industry. It would be a complete betrayal of these yards if there was any U-turn or going back on on promises made.”

Ms Sturgeons claims at the time of the referendum that the only option for BAE on the event of independence was to continue to build the ships in Glasgow were refuted by John Dolan, GMB convener at the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow:

“She was saying that the Clyde is the only game in town. I’m afraid it is not.

There’s shipbuilders in Cammell Laird in Liverpool. You have got the A&P Group on the Tyne, who are shipbuilders, and you have got Barrow in Furness.

So to say if Scotland goes independent we will still be building Type 26 frigates… listen, I assure you that if we go for independence we will not be building. We have been told quite clearly by the UK government and I have been told quite clearly that will not happen.”

A source who wishes to remain anonymous, told us that:

“Claims we would still be getting the work in Glasgow if we leave the UK doesn’t match with what the bosses have told us, we would still be doing the work. We just wouldn’t be doing it in Scotland.”

The issue of UK naval contracts on the Clyde had become controversial after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several groups indicated that the work would not go to an independent Scotland.

Ian King, chief executive of BAE, had indicated in a letter submitted to the Scottish Affairs Committee before the referendum that shipyards on the Clyde would likely have to close if Scotland were to leave the UK. Mr King said BAE would build the ships at a location compatible with the contract awarding process of the Ministry of Defence:

“In the event of a Yes vote, and as we have made clear, we would be required to discuss the future of the Type 26 programme with our customer, the MoD. It would be for the MoD to determine how the vote affects the final decisions they have yet to make on the programme, including the future location of the build of the ships.

We would take our customer’s lead in these circumstances. We cannot determine this outcome in advance, or without the direction of the MoD.

This shows clearly that, as we have previously stated, the only guarantee for the future of shipbuilding on the Clyde is for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.”

The Ministry of Defence, the customer referred to above by Mr King, has recently made clear that leaving the UK would influence the ‘location of the build of the ships’.

“No warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there.”

The full statement was made by the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology with responsibility for Defence procurement and Defence exports in response to a question from Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, regarding the Type 26 frigates.

“What I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman is that, had the independence vote gone the way that he and his colleagues would have liked, no warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there; we made that very clear.

As it is, as I have just confirmed to the House, we will be proceeding with the construction of eight complex Type 26 warships on the Clyde as and when the programme is ready.”

It’s speculated that the build plan for the Type 31 Frigate will follow a similar pattern to that of the Queen Elizabeth carriers and early Type 45 Destroyers in that blocks will be built in yards around the UK and assembled on the Clyde.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections. Entire multi-deck segments of the hull may be built elsewhere around the UK, transported to the building dock or slipway, then lifted into place. This is known as “block construction”. Yards pre-install equipment, pipes, electrical cables and any other components within the blocks, to minimise the effort needed to assemble or install components deep within the hull once it is welded together.

The Type 26 frigate represents the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service. It will replace the 8 anti-submarine Type 23 frigates of the Royal Navy and export orders are being sought after by BAE.

The programme has been underway since 1998, initially under the name “Future Surface Combatant”. The programme was brought forward in the 2008 budget at the expense of Type 45 destroyers 7 and 8.

BAE Systems has confirmed that the first steel will be cut on the Royal Navy’s Type 26 in summer 2017.

22 COMMENTS

  1. What would help, would for those yards especially Govan, not to be controlled by BAE. The owner of Fergusons would be a better option, even if he is a nationalist. BAE is just not dynamic. These yards have built warshisp for years, and have they really had proper investment over the years to be competitive? I know BAE are investing now in the yard they own on the Clyde at Scotstoun. A dynamic group owning and running Inchgreen and Govan would be a good option. A tie up with Cammell laird and Fergusons for joint projects in which Inchgreen (a mini consortia of British North West yards, which woyuld include harland and Wolff) a main assembly and integration facility. I’m getting ahead of myself, but there are other options and ideas.

  2. Clearly with the spreading of the work in modular fashion around the country the Government under the guise of efficiency and competitive issues it is equally keeping its options open and skill sets widespread despite the closure of the Portsmouth facilities. It might take time to re establish final assembly outside of Scotland but with the option for skilled workers to relocate along with their final assembly business it would simply be how long it would take, not the prospect of it happening which any rational mind would see as inevitable should an independence vote succeed.

    • nicola sturgeon is far from rational – according to her its in scotlands interests to be in europe rather than the uk after all its not like scotland does most of its business with england! we dont even have an oil industry any more

  3. Quite honestly, As there is only a 50% support for being ‘British’ in Scotland we should move the shipbuilding to England, Wales and N.Ireland where its appreciated. If the SNP want to take Scotland into the abyss then the real Brits can reap the benefits. The 50% of Scotts with a chip on their shoulder can fly their flag while working in McDonalds.

      • It is NOT 50% it WAS 45% and is now down to around 37% that are shouting about independence and it is just not wanted by the majority of Scotland. Unfortunately the poisoned dwarf of a first minister does not appear to understand that she is going AGAINST the majority and if she ever does get her indyref2 it will fail miserably and hopefully she will disappear from our lives for good

  4. Perhaps the Frigate factory in devonport should be re-opened – or another facility such as Cammel Laird be given half the work.

    The UK cannot be held hostage by the SNP continually – this needs to be decided once and for all I am amfraid.

    I respect Scotland, but am afraid the SNP will just continue to complain forever. After all it is them that started the whole lets leave the UK that has turned into a lets leave the EU decision.

  5. The Type 26 frigates was promised to Scotland. The assumption was that thirteen vessels would be built. Now that the requirement has been reduced to eight, the honorable thing to do is task at least five Type 31 frigates to Scottish yards. I speak as an Englishman. The OPVs are just a stop-gap to maintain the workforce for the Type 26 build.

      • I speak as an Englishman and the north of England needs these jobs so if the Scots vote to leave the union then all this work should come to the northern shipyards after all this work was promised to the Scots while members of the UK.

        • Totally agree. A few more years listening to the SNP and the real Brits will have had enough and the benefits can go to the rest of the UK.

  6. The SNP really are lunatics. Talk about having your cake and eating it ( which Scotland already does courtesy of HMGs unbalanced public expenditure for Scotland = free university places, free prescriptions, free social care, all of which English tax payers pay for) Now they think that the RN future warship construction will remain in Scotland , if they have a second go at independence referendum and are then stupid enough to vote for independence. Just madness.
    i agree with others here, let the Clyde build the reduced type 26 frigate order but modular construction for type 31 frigate is,the way forward.
    I think letting Babcock marine or Appledore shipyards take the lions share of the type 31 frigate work would be a good idea.
    The RN simply needs 10-12 type 31 frigates, that much is certain. I would not trust BAE to build the ships on time or on budget.
    The RN also needs to start planning type 45 destroyers replacement now and more urgently fund a replacement for HMS Ocean.

    • Yes and yes. Although you’ve just spelled out why our English polititions are lunatics for letting Scotland walk all over us. We should cancel the T26 and move our subs to Barrow and Devonport.

      If we then focus on just a few hulls of configurable layouts in different specialised yards then not only would costs would reduce and numbers increase, but closing a yard would leave such a capability gap that it wouldn’t be done. Sir John’s idea of having several yards all capable of building ship blocks means that numbers can be cut and a yard can be closed with little loss.

      Cammell Laird should do carriers and 25t ton hulls (solid support / tanker / RORO), Devonport 8t ton T45 hulls (escort / mothership / research or support), Appledore 2t and 400 tons (patrol / MCM), and Holyhead Marine for landing & patrol crafts and RHIBs. That’s just 8 sizes and Portsmouth would fit each one with sensors and weapons as needed.

  7. Tim
    seems all too logical to me. Why is it that the general public can see what a mess the situation is and the experts in the MOD and their governmental paymasters cannot?
    However i do think as type 26 promised to the Clyde we should not rescind on previous promises. I do think though that a long-term plan to ring fence £2-3 billion a year for surface warship construction (including support vessels) is needed. That way the national shipbuilding strategy might actually work. We could then deliver 1 high end warship frigate or destroyer a year, 1support ship+ 3-4 smaller mine warfare or offshore patrol ships a year for the foreseeable future.

    • I don’t know how the gov make such mess in the first place let alone why they can’t see it.
      It is too late to pull the 8xT26 from BAE (even though I want to) and if we did it would threaten the T23 life span, although when we finally ordered the 8xT45 that turned into 6 so I predict the same.
      Ring fencing £2-3bn for ships built in Britain would be really good for the economy as well as the RN. Just match the build and recycle frequencies with service life and total numbers so that each yard is efficient like 6 Rivers over 4 years, then 12 Patrol/MCMs over 4 years, then some recycling for 4 years, then repeat. That makes a fleet of 12 OPVs and 24 Patrol/MCM all with a life of 24 years. Just an example.

  8. This is a very disappointing article on TD, one-sided political in nature, and not up to the usual standard of TD analysis – with defence of the Realm as the primary interest. While castigating Sturgeon who has no decision in where or whether the T26 or T31 will be built, it fails to rip apart what Fallon says – or even relate it properly to the history of FSC and GCS.

    1). From a 2013 TD article quoting BaE: “BAE Systems has agreed with the UK Ministry of Defence that Glasgow would be the most effective location for the manufacture of the future Type 26 ships. ” But from your article, which does reflect other utterances from Fallon: “Michael Fallon also indicated that the Type 31 Frigate will be assembled there too”. There’s a big difference between “assemble”, and “manufactured” or built. So that’s a change. The promise to the Clyde yards was for 13 BUILT, not some part built elsewhere. Hence the stony faces in the Fallon press conference a few weeks back. The workers were not impressed.

    2). Fallon: “… with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected”. Please just look through your own history of articles. Why wouldn you not challenge the false statement about “earlier than expected”?

    3). The amended plan was for 8 T26 and 5 T27 = part of the GCS program. Unfortunately most, even including TD at times, have confused the two by just calling it T26. But it was stated that there would be 13 T26 built on the Clyde. I would say there will be quite a difference in terms of jobs and skills between what would have been a T27 and what is likely to be a T31, which won’t, it seems, even be fully built there according to the quite vague SDSR in November.

    4). The original program for the FSC was for 20, cut to 18, then cut to 13 GCS.

    5). While following the GMB line “… Cammell Laird in Liverpool. You have got the A&P Group on the Tyne, who are shipbuilders, and you have got Barrow in Furness” to show why the T26 could be taken away from the Clyde, would TD like to analyse the capability of these yards in terms of space, current commitments and indeed, skills of the workers in constructing complex warships, in terms of any sensible timescale for the T26 build to take place before the T23s are beyond even the most skilled and expensive hull extension program and refits?

    6). There is not even a side-note about the affordability of the current unsigned “commitment” to 8 T26 and 5 T31 – wherever they’re built.

    Seriously, I usually find TD informative and reasonable, including comments from informed people below the line. With articles and opinions from people with the defence of the UK as the first priority, and a genuine interest in getting the best of equipment and organisation. This wasn’t it.

    • This isn’t Think Defence, as clearly displayed above, this is the UK Defence Journal. We’re run by volunteers and don’t always have time to sift through the hundreds of comments we get daily.

      “I’m sad to see that Think Defence hasn’t published my comment which sought to provide a different point of view to the bias it had in its 14th February article. It was the editor wrote that story and he’s published an article today, so clearly doesn’t want to provide balance when it comes to Scottish matters. Shame, it used to be a good journal, and a good resource.”

      We are not Think Defence, please be more aware of where you are commenting in future. I appreciate you may have issues with what you perceive to be an issue of balance, however I disagree with that. Our primary audience is the defence industry and enthusiasts, most of whom likely understand the change from FSC to GCS or the build programme for the Type 31 potentially being block construction.

      Balance does not equal agreeing with your own personal view.

      • Ah well, my posting is a classic case of having several good points, and totally throwing them away by getting it wrong to start with. So rather than trying to save and redraft a losing “battle”, it’s retreat and try again next time for me. Meanwhile

        Apologies for mixing you up with TD

        however, perhaps it means you have good articles too explaining why I forgot where I was.

  9. Sorry, I forgot.

    7). Bearing in mind ” Irving of Nova Scotia, is building a warship dock hall similar to the ones abandoned by BAE Systems and is currently advertising to lure skilled Clydeside shipbuilders to Canada. “, what of the skills needed to build the T26 anyway, anywhere in the UK, will they still exist in the UK if Fallon doesn’t stop making a pig’s ear of this order?

  10. The Canadian Navy is in more of a mess than the RN with all their destroyers retired and scrapped and just 11 Hallifax class frigates to patrol and protect one of the largest coastlines in the world with a beligerent rush just over the top of the artic ocean.
    The Canadians however know their predicament and are going to strive hard to resolve this issue. They could potential build their own version of the type 26 or type 31 frigates. Which would be great for exports and working with our close Allies. Interesting to also note Australia and Germany and Holland need similar ships in the same timeframe as the UK.

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