Sources have suggested that the work on the Type 26 Frigates would be moved if Scotland voted for independence.

The Type 26 Frigate programme is responsible for just under 2,000 jobs in Scotland.

While it has been long known that the UK doesn’t build complex warships outside of the UK, the extent to which the builders were taking this position wasn’t well known.

Two sources have now stated that alternatives are being explored should BAE have to move the work from the Clyde.

Just so people are aware, the first batch of Type 31 Frigates at Rosyth would likely have been built before Scotland leaves the UK should they vote to, so they’re not entirely relevant here.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

One side, the Scottish government, say that naval shipbuilding would continue if Scotland left the UK. The other side, the UK government, say it would not.

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

The issue of UK naval contracts in Scotland has been a hot topic both before and after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several groups indicated that the work on complex warships for the Royal Navy would not go to an independent country.

Image George Allison

Have we heard this before?

I can guarantee a response on social media to this article will be “we have heard this before”, suggesting that frigates were ordered to secure a vote in the last referendum and cancelled after the vote came in. Nothing has changed, the ships are being built and ordered in batches.

UK policy on building complex warships outside the UK has not changed so it stands to reason that this will come up after talk of Scotland leaving the UK.

With the change from 13 Type 26 Frigates to 8 Type 26 Frigates and 5 Type 31 Frigates (plus some Offshore Patrol vessels), there was the perception in some corners that work had been cut for Scotland, what actually happened?

What happened after the independence referendum was the five-yearly occurrence known as a defence review, this time called the ‘Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015’. The initial Type 26 Frigate order had been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending outlined in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

As a result of Type 26 being reduced to 8 ships, it was announced that five general purpose frigates were to be designed and ordered. These became the the Type 31 Frigates and they were ordered from Babcock at Rosyth. Part of the reason for this change was understood to be that the MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement.

There are plans for 8 Type 26 Frigates and 5 Type 31 frigates to be built in Scotland, 5 River class Offshore Patrol Vessels have been launched. The original plan was for 13 Type 26 Frigates at one yard, years later the plan is now 18 vessels of three types sustaining work at three yards.

The Type 26 Frigate how it will look in UK service.

Jonathan Chartier, a defence commentator working in Government and local government IT services, explains the issue.

“Traditionally the Royal Navy has purchased ship classes from multiple yards and in distinct batches, this not only spreads programme costs but also allows for changes and improvements to the base design plus rectification work as well as keep shipyards open with a constant steady stream of work. Certainly for famous classes like the Type 12I Leander this batch production was necessary just to keep up with the radical changes seen in electronics and systems over their extensive career.

So whilst the Royal Navy would have a projected number to be built it was not unusual for the number of batches to be reduced or on some occasion increased as needed without comment by the wider general public to satisfy the requirements of the Admiralty and always lurking in the background Treasury. This practice continued through to the Type 23 class which was built by competing yards Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun and Swan Hunter, Wallsend. It is actually possible to tell where an individual Type 23 was built by inspecting its internal pipe fittings. With warship construction consolidated on the Clyde Type 26 was projected to be a build of thirteen vessels again through multiple batches in keeping with common practice, for those familiar with military ship building the thirteen projected was at best a placeholder subject to change.

Certainly it was well known in the period after the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security review it was clear that the equipment programme was again coming under extreme financial pressure again. In that circumstance it was unfortunate with a Scottish Independence referendum in the running David Cameron and the Better Together campaign unwisely turned routine procurement that could be subject to change into a political football by making it a direct promise to Scotland; thirteen Type 26 Frigates would be built on the Clyde alongside a new ‘Frigate Factory’.

The Labour Party exacerbated the situation with a leaflet spelling out that if Scotland remained in the Union it would get 13 Type 26 frigates. The Prime Minister and other Ministers plus representatives of the Better Together Campaign regularly spelled out that a Scotland in the Union would be getting thirteen Type 26.”

Fact check: Sturgeon's shipbuilding 'broken promises' claim is Mostly True
A leaflet from Labour.

So when the referendum was over and won for Better Together, the reality that Thirteen Type 26 was not deliverable within the allocated budget set in.

“A few months after cast iron guarantees for thirteen Type 26, the order was cut to eight as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security with a compensatory order for five General Purpose frigates proffered and some Offshore Patrol vessels ordered in their place. Considering what was promised in very clear terms by the Prime Minister, Better Together and other Parties including Labour it is understandable why Scottish Nationalists have fixated on it as a totemic issue. Put simply thirteen Type 26 was a core promise by Better Together in the Independence campaign that has been, technically, broken.

Of course the more nuanced point to be considered is that Scotland gained five River class Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessels and five Type 31 Frigates (plus a ‘frigate factory’ in Rosyth) as compensation for the loss.”

You can read more on this from Jonathan Chartier by following the link below.

What are the builders saying about this?

Ian King, former chief executive of BAE, had indicated in a letter submitted to the Scottish Affairs Committee before the 2014 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.”

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’. The full statement was made by then 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.”

You can read more about this in-depth below.

Would UK naval shipbuilding continue in Scotland if it left the UK?

You can also read more about the myths below.

Common myths about Scottish shipbuilding

What about Scottish naval vessels?

Scotland would still need a navy right? Up to date facts on what an independent Scotland would operate at sea, let alone what it would build aren’t easy to come by. The SNP earlier proposed that under independence Scotland would:

“Take over existing naval, army and air force bases within Scotland and inherit a share of defence equipment in negotiation with the rest of the UK.”

HMS Forth in Scotstoun, the first of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Prior to the referendum, the SNP had planned to inherit two Type-23 frigates in addition to four mine countermeasures vessels, two offshore patrol vessels and four to six patrol boats from all from the Royal Navy’s current fleet.

This leaves seemingly little needing built and any ships that would be constructed, would likely be a few Offshore Patrol Vessels. The plan, it seems, was for the build of two Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Given that the already slow drumbeat of MoD orders are barely enough to sustain the yards as it is, this doesn’t bode well for the yards future if Scotland chooses to leave. Put simply, a couple of ships are not enough to sustain one of the largest shipyards in the UK.

The only way for naval shipbuilding to continue to be viable in Scotland after independence would be for the Scottish government to place a significant order totalling many billions of pounds for a large volume of warships, an order this size by the way would be larger than the entire planned budget for an independent Scottish military.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
44 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rogbob
Rogbob
6 months ago

All politics. I expect we’d continue to buy Clyde built ships as an offset as part of a deal on the deterrent and transition of armed forces more generally. With early T26 already built there it would be utterly daft and vastly costly to try and recreate that. T83 on the other hand, and even T32 perhaps, could be done from scratch in England. It’s all just pre-positioning for negotiations, a few frigates being built somewhere is not a red line for either side but it does allow for balancing concessions elsewhere. We saw with Brexit how things go to… Read more »

Jacko
Jacko
6 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

It isn’t just the building that’s the problem! All licenses for the kit that goes into them would be null and void for a Independent Scotland.Mind you it has been made clear over and over this would be the case.

Mark B
Mark B
6 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

An independent Scotland is an emotional decision. Logic does not feature. Hopefully the UK would set out the terms of independence including treaties lasting well beyond the lifetime of any of us to guarantee defence issues. This would allow the Scots to understand what they would be getting. I still do not think the UK Government will permit another referendum until 2030 at the earliest anyway (especially as we have too many other issues on our plates). The SNP seem to be heading down a Catalonia route – which can’t end well. Personally in ten years or whatever if the… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Pretty much how I see it to Rogbob, in the short term it would be folly to change a current batch so the SNP would call it a ‘win’ that at least some of the ships are being built in Scotland. All roads lead to independence for the SNP and everything is fair game to be sacrificed to make that happen. Just my take but I really don’t think there’s a lot of close scrutiny in the longer term for an indy Scotland.

As you say, scary times for the Clyde dockies, and the rest of us for that matter.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

I think as the type 26 is modular and being constructed in blocks like the QE class the programme could be moved. Portsmouth or Plymouth would be the obvious choices for finishing any ships already started.
Type 83, type 32 would obviously resoundingly not go to an independent Scotland in any form.

Andy P
Andy P
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Not trying to ‘big up’ an Indy Scotland’s role in building rUK’s ships but certainly in the short term, if they’re half built and rUK is setting up a site then it would be cheaper and quicker to go with the current set up and finish the current contract. The next batch would be a different matter, assuming rUK had got an alternative production line in place. No future contracts should be forthcoming, that would be a bit nuts.

Order of the Ditch
Order of the Ditch
6 months ago

Excellent to hear. As an Englishman living in Scotland I think this country deserves to lose the orders if it votes for independence. English ship building has been shafted long enough to keep the Scots happy.

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago

That’s a bit misleading OotD, the UK defence industry now has limited military building, its basically one for this, one for that and quite rightly this is shared out around the UK. In this carve up Scotland has been building the escort fleet recently, Glasgow really up until the change of order from 13 down to 8 T26’s and the five cheaper ones would need to be build ‘somewhere’ and yes, politics has thrown a curve ball in there to an extent. There is a fair bit of defence building around other parts of the UK, including the submarines in… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
spyintheskyuk
6 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Does build Radar and associated tech mind I wonder if there is any threat to that. Don’t think anything has been said in that regard, it may well escape at least for some time as there is no specific policy on not buying such tech from a foreign Country and of course the company itself is now foreign owned. But if relations sink as low as I fear there will certainly be moves to limit buying such items from north of the border eventually especially if in competition with similar items made here by foreign owned companies or not. Especially… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago
Reply to  spyintheskyuk

Aye, there is other defence work based in Scotland and whether through a F-U Scotland or through the SNP taxing the crap out of companies, some or all might relocate. As I suggested elsewhere in this thread, the longer term doesn’t seem to be high on the nationalists agenda so a short term tax on some big companies wouldn’t surprise me ‘come the revolution’. Its not just going to be defence, there’s a shitload of other research type work happening in Scotland, some funded by UK government and some funded by UK (and Scottish in fairness) charities, even in the… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Get ready for the great capital flows movement in one direction. Out of Scotland. Rest of UK should get a generous economic shot in the arm from the independence vote. So much the SNP and Alex Salmond are whobbly on. Currency? Not sterling. Rest UK will not allow that Loss of Barnett formulary. End of free social care, free university places and free prescriptions. Austerity worse than that suffered by UK as a whole after credit crunch Loss of access to rUK key public services like NHS, Police and Crime databases etc. The loss of the NHS will mean Scottish… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

I agree that there will be a financial catastrophe in the event of independence. Also agree there are massive gaps in the SNP’s logic on a whole range of things, it really does scare the crap out of me that it comes to pass.

I do wince when some posters on here let their imaginations run riot on their personal Scottish indy apocalypse fantasies though.

Mike Hannah
Mike Hannah
6 months ago

As a scot, I agree that if this country is crazy enough to jump off the cliff then they should lose the orders . Regardless of what the SNP say, it is the organisation placing the order who decides where the ships are built.
However I disagree about other yards veing shafted to satisfy the Scots. Frigates / destroyers etc are complex ships and it makes sense to concentrate our capability in one place just as it is sensible for all sub building to be at Barrow.

Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Hannah

Yes that was actually Gordon Brown buggering up the whole industry in the noughties by starving them of orders and forcing a merger creating a BAE monopoly. As the Warship building was lead by Yarrow staff they favoured their own yard at the expense of the Vopser’s facility at Portsmouth and Barrow was focused on Nuclear Submarines. Swan & Hunter and Cammel laird were starved of business, bar for CVF crumbs. BAE then used its monopoly to ramp up the costs n the Type 26 and cost it the other 5 ships. Independent Scotland does create a bit of a… Read more »

Mike Hannah
Mike Hannah
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Baker

The MoD has a history of forcing change whether the defence industry want it or not. They did the same to the U.K. Avaition sector in the 60s . The merits of this move both in Avaition abd ship building is dubious. As you rightly point out it has removed competition although hopefully Babcock can use the Type 31 as a spring board to take on BAE . As for ship building post Indy , yes it will be messy but the sinner they start making preservations the better . It might remind the work force and the supply chain… Read more »

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
6 months ago

Clickbait? Wasn’t aware a referendum was happening in the next decade.

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
6 months ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

Have you not been watching the news? MS. Sturgeon and her SNP say if they win the election in May they will again push for e referendum.

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

Nothing new. The SNP was asking for another referendum the day after the last one. At the end of the day, Westminster decides if there is a referendum, not the SNP.

spyintheskyuk
spyintheskyuk
6 months ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

Not that simple, if a big vote for the SNP occurs most analysts will say that whatever the language from Parliament, its only the matter of delaying a vote not preventing one that will be possible in practice. And a delay beyond a decade is I would say a long shot I suspect 5 years or so is the more lily scenario because there will be serious hostility pushing it much beyond and only a hardening of the Independence movement.

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago
Reply to  spyintheskyuk

Agree with you Spy, although a curve ball would be Boris saying “OK then” after viewing the numbers who have voted for what might well be the case that there is a majority for independence parties (leading to the clamour) but based on a circa 50% of the vote. It would be a very ballsy call by a Tory government after the whole Brexit fiasco for Cameron but BoJo is a different beast. Only my opinion but I’d say if its sold right I could see it being another 55%ish voting to stay, that really should put it to bed… Read more »

Mac
Mac
6 months ago

I doubt anyone in Scotland, apart from the workers themselves, really gives a damn anymore about their fate. It’s certainly not going to persuade anyone to switch from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’. It’s long been accepted in the SNP cult that the shipyards would be (one of many amongst the civilian and defence industries in Scotland reliant on UK Government spending) sacrificial lambs to the cause of their ‘freedumb’ crusade. No doubt the snake oil merchants like Sturgeon, will make promises that they will find alternative work for all of them and no doubt that will be enough to make it… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
spyintheskyuk
6 months ago
Reply to  Mac

Spot on sadly and of course once they are Independent there isn’t really much the workers can do about it but listen to the lies and platitudes mostly from whoever follows Sturgeon by then too so she won’t worry to much. Whether the Party splinters is the big question and I suspect that it will considering there already has been one.

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago
Reply to  spyintheskyuk

“Whether the Party splinters is the big question and I suspect that it will considering there already has been one.” I did a bit of digging a few months back and ended up on ‘Wings Over Scotland’, it was one of those ‘car crash’ moments, and yeah, Wee Jimmy is about as popular as a turd in a punchbowl with a lot of nationalists. Until recently, the SNP looked like quite a tight knit bunch but you’re right, they’re pretty dysfunctional and the ‘Big Eck’ splinter is maybe the first of many, he’s tarnished and Swinney isn’t the next leader… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Mac

Agree. There is reality. Then there is the William Wallace harking back to Scottish mythology craze and hysteria induced by the SNP. The UK as a whole is a wonderful union truelly able to deliver amazing results on a global scale. The loss of Scotland would deminish Scotland and the UK but would resoundingly be more negative for Scotland. To some extent I think let’s see what the SNP get in the coming elections. If it is a landslide then do not allow the SNP to dictate the pace and timing of a referendum or to get a head of… Read more »

geoff
geoff
6 months ago

Realistically the work in progress would have to stay in Scotland in the medium term. My thoughts are though that if a cerebral case is made for the Union emphasizing that Scotland can retain a large measure of self government in the UK along with a Scottish identity that never really went away in the last 300 plus years, then I would think Scotland would vote to remain with the best of both worlds. Scexit would be a disaster for each person and nation among the 4 Home Countries in my opinion.

Jacko
Jacko
6 months ago
Reply to  geoff

Independence will not happen overnight there will be time to gradually move down south as until the deed is done they will still be in the UK

spyintheskyuk
spyintheskyuk
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacko

Yes a good decade I suspect so the move will be gradual

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
6 months ago

It’s reassuring, don’t you think, that two of the political party’s in Scotland are so hot on defence. The SNP wants to knock 30000 plus jobs on the head by destroying the UK’s shipbuilding industry and judging by the leaflet the Labour party have no idea what hey are talking about. What a surprise.

Jan van der Werk
Jan van der Werk
6 months ago

I have got a bag of popcorn and a can of fizz, this should be one of those UKDJ hoots.

captain p wash
captain p wash
6 months ago

Nothing really new to discuss here though, it’s been done to death countless times.

dan
dan
6 months ago

Good. Scotland shouldn’t expect things to stay the same if they leave. Is just common sense.

dan
dan
6 months ago

But even if Scotland leaves and loses the British warship business wouldn’t Scottish shipyards get new business from the new Scottish MOD to build a fleet of Scottish warships to defend Scotland? haha

captain p wash
captain p wash
6 months ago
Reply to  dan

Yes, Yes they will.

john melling
john melling
6 months ago
Reply to  dan

I’m not sure floating bagpipes are fit enough to use

Dern
Dern
6 months ago

I don’t even need to see the twitter comments…

Frank62
Frank62
6 months ago

Wee Nicola is using the EU strategem of trying to re-run referenda until they get the result they want. For me that’s nothing like respecting the last “once in a generation” or their electorate.
Scottish shipbuilding get a huge boom from the RN in the UK. It would be good to get some escorts built in the RUK anyway, rather than the Scottish monopoly.

Connor
Connor
6 months ago

And rightly so. I’m greatly proud of the UK but frankly the constant bashing on and on from the Scots about wanting to ditch it winds me up. Part of me does wish they’d just leave so that we can get on with life and focus on more important issues.

It saddened me how close they got in the last refurrendum and it saddens me further that they might get away with hosting a second one. Is this really what the Scottish people want?

Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker
5 months ago

Another factor with an independent Scotland apart from the Ship building and the nuclear deterrent, comes the people who currently serve in the Military, do they get transferred to a Scottish Defence force,
What happens with the loss of skilled manpower who operate our Nuclear Submarines an operate from Faslane, and other highly secure positions within the Military and Government ?

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Baker

I’m not sure you can just transfer them. I think they would have to volunteer and want to switch allegiances to a new country. What would happen to their pay and conditions? Their pensions? Etc. I cant see an independent Scitland being able to afford the price of a postage stamp let alone a well balanced defence force.

Elaine Skinner
Elaine Skinner
5 months ago

Fuck off then, Scots dont like bullies who use and abuse us with threats
just like you did before 2014. How bloody disrespectful using this as bait hoping to get a No vote! It shows you have nothing but contempt for Scotland and its people. We are different from 2014, we are the blinded by lies little mice..so personally, feck off, many companies threatened this before 2014 and many left anyway even with a No vote. We Scots are real people, you don’t get to piss on us everytime we don’t do what England wants!

Liam
Liam
5 months ago

If HMG had any sense it would be planning to remove all its military capability from Scotland now. The Scottish independence movement is, in reality and if the Scottish people want it, inevitable. If not we face having our own restive Catalonia. I would offer the Orkneys and Shetlands the chance to vote on remaining part of the UK or having their own independence. Other than that get the subs down to Devonport and the shipbuilding down to some depressed areas of England and Wales. Give the Scots nothing and impose a hard border because frankly the open anti-Englishness of… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
5 months ago

A huge issue with regards to any military project in an independent Scotland would be the US ITAR rules. If there is any US made equipment or equipment that contains components that are on the US Munitions list then they require licencing to use those items. The rules are such that if a component is fitted in a ship then the whole ship comes under the rules. Not having a licence or failure to comply with the ITAR rules leaves a manufacturer open to huge fines and criminal charges. BAe are very aware of the issues with ITAR having got… Read more »

Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson
5 months ago

What did Scotland think & about the forces stationed here , as a Scots man I dont blame them moving out