It is commonly claimed that there are no Royal Navy vessels based in or present within Scottish waters, despite the presence of frigates, submarines, patrol vessels, other craft and a major Royal Navy base.

The claim centres around what appears to be a significant misunderstanding of what Royal Navy vessels actually do.

A recent and prominent example of this (which will be explored as the articles goes on) is from Alan Brown, Member of Parliament for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, and was asked during an Oral Answers to Questions session on Defence in the House of Commons, on the 26th November:

“If we look at the here and now, the Defence Committee report, ‘On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic,’ confirms that the UK should focus more on its operability and presence in the Arctic. Right now, there are currently no Royal Navy vessels in Scottish waters and no indication of any resources being applied. Should not the Minister be doing more to protect Scottish waters?”

HMS Penzance (pictured here leaving Faslane) and other ships of her class carry one 30mm gun and two smaller machine guns to deal with armed threats.

Mark Lancaster, The Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, replied:

“Let us be clear, there are lots of Royal Navy vessels in United Kingdom waters and, of course, any implementation of a Scottish strategy would be done within the realms of a United Kingdom strategy. I am pleased to say that earlier this year, for example, I visited HMS Trenchant on ICEX, in which it was the first British submarine in over 10 years to serve under the ice. Only this year we have had Royal Marines training in Norway. That will continue year on year, and they are training US marines. I am quite comfortable, and I am grateful for the Defence Committee’s report, ‘On Thin Ice’ as a result of which our activity is increasing.”

What is actually stationed at HMNB Clyde?

HM Naval Base Clyde – commonly known as Faslane – is the Royal Navy’s main presence in Scotland. It is home to the core of the Submarine Service, including the nuclear armed submarines, the new generation of hunter-killer submarines and a number of other vessels of different types. Here’s a list of what’s based there.

Three Astute class SSNs, with a further 4 to follow.

HMS Astute on the Clyde
  • HMS Astute
  • HMS Ambush
  • HMS Artful

Seven Sandown class mine countermeasures vessels

HMS Penzance, a Sandown class vessel.
  • HMS Penzance
  • HMS Pembroke
  • HMS Grimsby
  • HMS Bangor
  • HMS Ramsey
  • HMS Blyth
  • HMS Shoreham

Three small Archer class patrol vessels belonging to the Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron

P2000 Class Royal Navy Patrol Vessel HMS Raider MOD 45151351.jpg
HMS Raider, an Archer class patrol craft.
  • HMS Tracker
  • HMS Raider
  • HMS Pursuer

Four of what the base is arguably known for, Vanguard class SSBNs.

Vanguard class submarine HMS Victorious.
  • HMS Vanguard
  • HMS Victorious
  • HMS Vigilant
  • HMS Vengeance

Do other UK vessels routinely sail in Scottish waters?

There’s a constant year round presence of Royal Navy frigates or Destroyers sailing through, exercising in or patrolling waters around Scotland.

Pictured below is a submarine and frigate engaged in a recent exercise near the Firth of Clyde, which is a common occurrence.

HMS Astute and frigate HMS St Albans on exercise off the Scottish coast.

In fact, why not have a look for yourself? Note that some naval vessels may not be visible if they turn off the system that allows for them to show up on this real time map, however many are still visible and on the date of publication there were 10 Royal Navy and RFA vessels in and around Scotland, this can be verified by using historical data from the above source.

The west of Scotland being largely uninhabited and with Scottish waters being vast, the area presents itself as an ideal exercise ground.

Go on Twitter, go on a vessel tracking website any day of the week and you’ll see a stream of naval movements in and around Scottish waters.

Why are no frigates or destroyers based in Scotland?

The basing of a large surface warship, such as a Type 23 frigate, would make little sense not least due to the expensive logistics trail it would create but due to the fact that the vessels already based in Scotland (the aforementioned ships and submarines) are perfectly capable (if not more so) of dealing with the roles they are assigned from patrol duties to war-fighting. If the need ever materialised to station a major surface warship in Scotland, a handful are always within half a days sailing away.

So where does this claim come from?

It appears to originate back in 2014 when Alex Salmond said:

“The navy does not have a single major surface vessel based in Scotland. The largest protection vessels stationed in Scottish waters are those of the fisheries protection vessels run by the Scottish government. It is absurd for a nation with a coastline longer than India’s to have no major surface vessels. And it’s obscene for a nation of five million people to host weapons of mass destruction.”

This is a curious statement in my opinion and in my view, it seems to be tad disingenuous as many of the vessels based in Scotland are submarines and not “major surface vessels” as Alex Salmond was keen to stress but are smaller patrol vessels and submarines. Making a distinction like that ignores the most capable anti-surface warfare vessels in the British fleet, the nuclear powered (not armed) submarines.

Why would anyone, when discussing how well Scotland is defended, want to discount the submarines?

The claim has now evolved into something new, the claim that there are no surface vessels of any kind in Scottish waters.

Verdict

The claim has (as shown above) morphed into there simply being no surface vessels in Scotland of any kind, major or minor.  The continued outrage this claim fosters appears to result from people not willing to do their own fact checking.

The claim that there are no surface vessels based in Scotland is false and to be frank, irrelevant. The nuclear submarines are primary anti-surface and anti-submarine platforms in the Royal Navy and Faslane hosts most of them.

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SoleSurvivor
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SoleSurvivor

But apart from excersises and being based at Faslane, how often does an offshore patrol vessel actually patrol Scottish waters? Surely that’s the most relevant statistic and perhaps what the guys talking about.

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

Scotland’s Government run it’s own Fisheries/Marine Patrol Vessel fleet rather than contracting the RN to as England does. if that is what he is talking about he is either ignorant or disingenuous at best.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

They’re not military ships, they are not even armed are they? So you think a small non military ship is adequate for all the other patrol roles?

Ok I will change it, what armed ships do we have, either OPV, Frigate or Destroyer patrolling Scottish waters? How often and for how long? I don’t know I am genuinely asking anyone on here to inform me.

I think the answer to that question is the real answer here. Not what is in Scotland for excersises or ones that are based here.

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

But the RN’s Fisheries Protection Squadron are 4x River Class OPVs doing the same job – that is their role. So, discount OPVs from his argument.
What other patrol activities have you in mind around Scotland? There are no Frigates or destroyers home-ported in Scotland but FRE & TAPS are normally available if required. Of course we do have SSNs if we wanted to get really serious … 😛

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

But the rivers are totally different to the Scottish ones, can the Scottish OPV do counter terrorism and anti smuggling?

I’m not saying they’re needed I’m just curious as to why the SNP are saying it, do they want more proper Navy protection on top of their own fisheries protection?

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

I am sure that with appropriate deployments of support (e.g police/RM) if required they could do but don’t forget that e.g. HM Customs & Excise have their own patrol cutters.
The SNP say it because it plays to the uninformed for political capital – as I said, either ignorant or disingenuous at best.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Yeah that’s true, but what anti submarine work do we have currently around U.K. waters, North Sea, GIUK gap? Scottish waters and beyond have always been historically, certainly last century, important for the security for the U.K. and further with NATO’s northern flank. Is it a gap that we are ignoring because the risk seems so little since the 90’s, is the threat coming back? I do think there is also a small legitimate argument to be made coming to think of it and just doing some reading on it as well, but I do agree that’s probably not the… Read more »

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

We have the SSN Force based at faslane with 3 Astute and 4 Trafalgar class out of Davenport to deter any submarine threat, plus the T23 fleet. Plus our intelligence services are usually pretty good at letting the powers that be know of any incoming threats heading our way.

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

that is where TAPS comes in if required plus the forthcoming RAF P8s (US & Norwegian too). & of course the SSNs.
Yes, the threat appears to be increasing.

Sir humphrey
Guest

I think you misunderstand how these things work. The Royal Navy does not have lots of armed ships randomly steaming about ‘patrolling waters’ either off Scotland or the rest of the UK. Patrols are usually done by OPVs to support specific objectives, or operations. For example if a Russian ship was approaching the UK a warship would deploy to escort it through UK waters. Its worth remembering the following – that most territorial waters are big and empty and don’t need a day to day presence, and secondly, there are plenty of ships available for the jobs that do need… Read more »

SoleSurvivor
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SoleSurvivor

I didn’t say there was vessels steaming about randomly patrolling waters did I?, no need to patronise me.

I asked a question that sounds pretty fair, how often do we have a dedicated Royal Navy vessel patrolling Scottish waters for all patrol tasks, anti smuggling, counter terrorism, drugs etc, I’m not even saying they are needed, it’s just a question that I think is the real and proper answer to the article headline.

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

There are none dedicated to Scottish waters just as there is none dedicated to English or Welsh waters. Since there is no real need for counter nurcotic, counter pioracy and a limited need for counter terrorism then there’s no reason for one to be there. The anti smuggling, limmited anti terror work and fishery protection are more then secured with the current vessels available. However, if something more serious was need as has been such as to escort Russian ships the navy always have a frigate to respond and can be anywhere in the country within a few days. Also… Read more »

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Sorry Harry I didn’t mean dedicated to just Scottish waters, I meant a patrol for all U.K. waters occasionally covering Scotland, by dedicated I mean a proper Royal Navy vessel.

What about anti submarine, what do we have looking for anti submarine activity in the North Sea and surrounding waters?

Harry Bulpit
Guest
Harry Bulpit

The astutes. But yes we have the fleet ready escort. A ship thats ready to respond to any incident in the uk waters.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

And there will usually be a TAPS ship assigned to ASW too, as detailed on this site relatively recently.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Thank you, that’s the answer I was looking for.

Sir humphrey
Guest

I’m not being patronising – I’m making the point that people who demand ships in their waters on patrol don’t often have a clear understanding of why they need to be there. You use the phrase ‘patrolling’ but its not that simple – a patrol implies a ship steaming up and down at random to try and find things. In reality the UK would use its very substantial maritime tapestry to act on an intelligence led tip off, or other source to conduct a focused operation – e.g. they would know their target in advance rather than just hope for… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

For info-

Further to Sir Humphrey’s comment on intelligence led operations. See –

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/national-maritime-information-centre-will-monitor-threat-from-sea-1925293.html

Opened 2010 ish and liaises with NATO partners and others.

The SBS boarding the MV Nisha is one example of approaching threats long before targeted by intelligence and planned for accordingly.

A MCT flight of Wildcat is available at Yeovilton to assist.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

You were being patronising, you assumed I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, which I admit I’m hardly an expert, I’m asking questions learning. So there is no such thing as a random patrol? I’ve worked in the security industry for 10 years and one of the first rules you learn is to always make your patrols randomly when you can, to stop anyone knowing your movements and where you are going to be, and secondly because it’s always most likely you will run into a problem randomly, that you have no intelligence on. I’m not saying it’s… Read more »

Sir humphrey
Guest

We dont send ships into the GIUK gap to do patrols. They go to do a specific task.

Boarding a ship in search of drugs is a complex operation involving a lot of legal preparatory work and requires a lot of co-ordination. It isn’t just done on the spur of the moment – I’m sorry but the security industry is nothing like how the Royal Navy operates at sea – they are entirely different beasts.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

And what would that specific task be? I didn’t say it wasn’t, again you presume something as the basis of you’re argument. I thought under the new maritime powers act we have the right to board and search any vessel in home or international waters? So if an OPV tracks a boat that isn’t responding heading to the U.K. from the Netherlands what does it do, say let that one go lads we have not got the paperwork? Save the Royal Navy has an article from 2012 that has this line.. “Recently Russian warships were seen dumping waste overboard close… Read more »

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

Stop picking an argument with a man who clearly knows a hell of alot more then you do on this subject, more than any of us. And just accept that he is correct. He gave you a very polite and accurate reply. He is ex RN officer with a wealth of experience on frontline operations around the world and the UK.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Look at you getting your panties in a twist. He picked an argument with me commenting underneath my post, patronising me. Are you the guy who was arguing until blue in the face with me that there is very little difference in the F-35a and F-35b? Oh yeah I forget you also tried to shut me down in that one as well because I lacked the relative experience. Listen Robert, I will comment and debate with anyone I like, I don’t care who or what they are I will always debate and show respect when respect is given back. You… Read more »

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

Except you don’t debate do you, you just argue with people who don’t agree with what you are saying, which from yr past comments is usually wrong. Sir Humphrey writes some of the most well written, balanced in well informed articles in UK defence, if you want to really learn something about defence, I suggest you become a fan too 😉

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Naa you’re alright mate, I have too much self respect than to jump into a debate like a knight in shining armour leaping to the defence of someone attacking the other party (who you just confirmed you have a pre determined biased against)

You should definitely stick to being a cheerleader though, it suits you 😉

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

Then you will always be in the wrong, if you arnt willing to listen and learn.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

“I don’t know I am genuinely asking anyone on here to inform me.”

“I’m not saying they’re needed I’m just curious as to why the SNP are saying it”

“Yeah that’s true, but what anti submarine work do we have currently around U.K. waters, North Sea, GIUK gap?”

“but I do agree that’s probably not the SNP’s thinking”

“Sorry Harry I didn’t mean dedicated to just Scottish waters”

“Thank you, that’s the answer I was looking for.”

“which I admit I’m hardly an expert, I’m asking questions learning.”

You must of skipped past that to get to the juicy bits Robert.

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

You got a perfectly good and well informed reply the first time, but for some reson you took offence. Go figure.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

In your opinion**

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

Don’t waste your breath sir Humphrey, some will never get it, no matter how well you explain it.

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

I think he gave you a very well informed and accurate reply, best you are going to get on this website.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

That’s debatable, he wrongly assumed I was talking about ships “steaming” around aimlessly patrolling without an objective just because I used the word patrol.

Even though every defence website or news organisation when reporting on deployments also use the word patrol.

The only time he comments on here is when he thinks he needs to correct someone.

What are you anyway his fan club?

Matt C
Guest
Matt C

You claimed Sir Humphrey: “wrongly assumed I was talking about” Which you then proceeded to confirm, by saying, inter alia: “always make your patrols randomly when you can” meaning Humphrey was absolutely right in judging your assumption, and you’re just trying to worm your way out of it. Humphrey is describing the task-focused operations of the RN, in which ships do sail around the UK coast but performing certain missions, for example HMS Defender which is in fact off the western Scottish coast but is participating in Joint Defender. This is unlike a mall cop mentality of plodding around Scottish… Read more »

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

No that’s called a counter argument Matt, not a confirmation. “how often does an offshore patrol vessel actually patrol Scottish waters?” I said that and i did not mean we have “The Royal Navy does not have lots of armed ships randomly steaming about ‘patrolling waters’ either off Scotland or the rest of the UK” I confirmed it by saying “Royal Navy vessel patrolling Scottish waters for all patrol tasks, anti smuggling, counter terrorism, drugs etc, I’m not even saying they are needed, it’s just a question that I think is the real and proper answer to the article headline.”… Read more »

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

There you go again, arguing with another sensible comment.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

There i go again defending myself and providing counter argument, i must stop this crazy thing of replying to people and not agreeing with everyone.

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

Two people have given you perfectly accurate, and sensible information, and you know they are right, but you argue anyway.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Which was the most accurate Robert

Me using the “phrase” patrolling? is it a phrase?

Or “a patrol implies a ship steaming up and down at random to try and find things”

Antarctic Patrol
Atlantic Patrol Tasking North
Atlantic Patrol Tasking South
Falkland Islands Patrol Task
Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron
Towed Array Patrol Ship

Not to mention you can go on the Royal Navy website and see the word patrol a hundred times.

Someone needs to tell the Royal Navy and every news organisation in the world that they need to stop using the word patrol.

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

You asked how many armed warships or OPV’s are patrolling Scottish waters, how many and for how long, I believe you got the answer, a very accurate one at that.

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Finally you said it, YOU believe, and you are very much entitled to believe whatever you want, you can have any opinion you want, and more power to you because of it.

Just as I am.

Or are you still attacking me for having a different opinion?

Robert Blay
Guest
Robert Blay

The answers you got are completely accurate, yr problem if you choose to ignore them

SoleSurvivor
Guest
SoleSurvivor

Except the debate that followed was not just about the answers to my questions were they. It’s your choice if you choose to ignore that though and attack me anyway.

Alex Flanagan
Guest
Alex Flanagan

Why would the MOD advertise where our naval vessels are any way? I know they occasionally say where they are but we don’t and should not be aware of where they are except for the knackered Clyde built frigates docked in Plymouth waiting repair and upgrades.

Geoffrey Roach
Guest
Geoffrey Roach

What is the point of this oft repeated question anyway. Last time I looked Scotland was part of the U.K. so….is there a warship off Cornwall, or Wales or Kent or Belfast or….! This is just another example of the SNP and probably the Scottish CND have a moan.

Barry Larking
Guest
Barry Larking

I scrolled down and came upon the name I was seeking. Salmond (ex S.N.P.) would never broadcast anything that placed the U.K. in a favourable light.

Matt C
Guest
Matt C

To seize upon a(ny) pretext to trumpet the “UK ignores the Scottish security and saddles us with nasty nukeses” narrative.

Andy P
Guest
Andy P

Kind of how I see it. I’m not sure why this story/article has been recirculated, its based on old news anyway. For right or wrong finances have a large part to play on what’s where (apart from the S/M’s) and there is adequate cover for the boats to get in and out with the Sandown’s at Faslane. I’m a bit out the loop (and not that bothered) but the plan was for ALL submarines to be based in Faslane so there’s maybe a call for Ingerland to moan about not having enough submarines, dunno, like I say, its a non… Read more »

Cam
Guest
Cam

Let’s buy HMS Clyde and base her in Scottish waters permanently, she can handle it. She’s been based in south Atlantic after all. Problem solved. And there’s always frigates and destroyers in Scottish waters when they need to be. No point when they don’t need to be.,,

Harry Bulpit
Guest
Harry Bulpit

But there’s no need. The Scottish government have their own fishery protection fleet, and if for god knows what reason they need a ship with the firepower of a river, then all those mine hunters are available.

Cam
Guest
Cam

Yeah but HMS Clyde can do constabulary duties ect or just patrol like she has been doing down south, and she’s far more sea worthy than the dam “mine-hunters” and can handle Scottish weather far better. Why not? It’s ok to base three rivers in England but the most capable river is no good in Scotland?

geoff
Guest
geoff

Slightly off topic but I read an article a few days back claiming that the Type 31 low cost Frigate project is to be cancelled. Was that a late April Fools joke or did I dream I read it or is it for real?? If for real I am amazed nothing in UKDJ!! Or did my old brain miss that too?
Any information gentlemen(and ladies) and if true where to from here?

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Afternoon Geoff.

No dedicated article as yet but we have chewed it over already, it was mentioned in the Telegraph and someone posted here about it.

See bottom of the article on Allied Ships on ABM exercise in UK Waters it is in there…

geoff
Guest
geoff

Thank you Daniele-will be a serious problem if the 31 is cancelled with no plan B in place!

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Agree. The 31’s were needed before the T26’s.

Cam
Guest
Cam

Aren’t the 31s supposed to be built before the type 26 frigates Daniele?

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Yes Cam mate.

That was the idea…now who knows, we shall wait and see.

I’m still keen on the concept myself.

m j cox
Guest
m j cox

Thinking I thought Scotland wanted independence from the British Isles so why do they need “foreign”ships to defend their waters cake and eat it springs to mind as well as only discus or ignore part of the facts.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

In the Four ship picture above the difference is striking between the Italian FREMM (left) and the French version (right),the Italian one seems to have a lot more topweight with the higher Radar etc.

R Cummings
Guest
R Cummings

Sir Humphrey sets out the RN’s doctrine on patrolling UK waters, which is focused, intel-led and specific and this is logical and correct. There is ostensibly no point or purpose in tying up a lot of hulls and crew doing routine offshore patrols. I would still make a case for doing such patrols: 1) Capability: The main task for the OPVs is fishery protection, but 3 OPVs and a couple of civilian-manned non-warships in Scottish waters is a token and minimalist gesture next to the length of Britain’s shoreline. These ships may also be tasked with other duties, such as… Read more »