Claims that Scotland is the only part of the UK with the capabilities to build complex warships have been met with scepticism.

Stewart McDonald, Member of Parliament for Glasgow South & SNP Spokesperson for Defence, said today during a Defence questions exchange in parliament:

“Can I begin by putting on record the welcome of the Scottish National Party on the announcement on Type 26’s and also welcome the fact that Scotland is of course the only part of the UK that can build these complex ships.”

Is this true?

Claims before the 2014 Scottish independence referendum that the only option for BAE on the event of independence was to continue to build the ships in Glasgow were at the time refuted by John Dolan at the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow:

“She [Sturgeon] 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 at the yard in Govan who wishes to remain anonymous, told us that:

“Claims we would still be getting the Type 26 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.”

It is also speculated that the build plan for the Type 31 Frigate, a class of lighter general purpose frigates planned to begin construction after the Type 26, 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.

While this is less efficient it does have the benefit of spreading the work to many regions and yards, this could have been done with the Type 26 Frigate.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections rather than the old fashioned laying of a keel and building upwards. 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.

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.

This is known as block construction and can be done in almost any yard of sufficient size.

So, is the claim accurate? It would appear not to be.


  1. Barrow-in-Furness , Mersey , Clyde to name just three yards in England will cope more than adequately when Scotland leaves the union. Even smaller yards , like Bideford , will have expertise to participate.

    • The Clyde, to which you refer as an English location, is the main river that meanders it’s way through Glasgow, Scotland.

    • Thanks but the Bideford Shipyard is in Appledore. Appledore can build these ships. Built bits for the carrier and now building OPVs for the Irish navy. Atill plenty of skills down south. Also Portsmouth could be brought back on line if needed

  2. It’s easy to move the skilled manpower to another yard,just what was done for the carrier alliance at Rosyth.

  3. Really want a properly funded national shipbuilding strategy as a matter of urgency. If the RN was to be rebuilt properly there would be a great opportunity to turbo charge collaborative ship building across the UK.



    Foreign Aid 10 year plan now same as our military equipment program – happy days!

    Treason = the undermining of ones own country

  4. Before Portsmouth was sacrificed on the altar of appeasement and devolution in Scotland more of the QE was built outside the Clyde.

    In pure logistics alone given the manufacturing sites on the Clyde, Mersey, Devon, Portsmouth and Tyneside then Rosyth was totally the wrong place. They had to spend £80 Mn upgrading the site, buying a huge new crane that is now redundant and even wasting money on a folding mast because of the Forth Bridge! Make it up you couldn’t! Both QE ships could have been assembled more easily, and closer to the major manufacturing sites, in Belfast. And they have built more carriers than anyone else I believe.

    We should start the Type 31 as soon as possible and build the modules in the same yards as the QE (except Scotland as they have the Type 26 and the rest of the PoW) and assemble them in Portsmouth or Belfast.

  5. Portsmouth, Appledore, Harland and Wolf Belfast, Liverpool, all capable of building high-end surface warships.
    I hope that we build on the type 26 frigates so that we utilise the hull and power plant to develop the replacement for the type 45s, would love 8 air warfare type 26 frigates to follow our type 26 ASW frigates. Either to replace or supplement the type 45s.
    The type 31 needs to be constructed on a continuous one a year basis so that by the 2030s the RN fleet will be more than the current envisaged 26 frigate and destroyers hulls which are our minimum numbers needed.

  6. Building warships outside of Scotland makes sense. Diversification of supply is never a bad thing and the prospect of Indyref2 has dramatically reduced so there is little to fear from pissing off Sturgeon et al.

  7. Complex warships including the T26 can theoretically be built anywhere in the UK. It’s current workload, capacity, facilities, time and cost of getting ayrds ready, and transfer of the workforce – if they want to move – and the availability of apprentices that is the problem.

    So can they be built anywhere else in the UK? Yes. Would it cost more? Perhaps. Would it cause delays? Perhaps. Would those delays cost more keeping the T23 going? Probably.

    It’s cost and logistics is the problem, not the potentiality.

      • That’s a bit of a worry. Maybe cheaper in the short term to be built abroad, but for an island state, a very foolish move long-term. Same as the steel.

  8. Its about time Naval shipbuilding was spread out across the UK and not reliant on the whims of both the people of Scotland and BAE systems.

  9. Diversification of supply would only be a good thing. The SNP will constantly moan and grumble about RN contracts, and the assumption that the Clyde should automatically be awarded them. They refuse to acknowledge that if they force through their indy fantasy, no further warships will be built on the Clyde. Any future other vessels would need to be tendered on the open market. UK defence procurement cannot afford to be at the whim of separatists.

  10. I think we should retain the majority of shipbuilding on the Clyde BUT this cannot be the only construction yard.
    The Royal Navy is in too perilous a state between now and say 2030 at the earliest to have lethargic construction of 1 frigate every 18-24 months. The type 23 was built at a rate of 2-3 ships a year and this is what we need to go back too.
    The RN needs concurrent construction of type 26 and type 31. With a build rate of one a year for both. That will provide Clyde shipbuilders work for the next 12 years at least. Then and only then once the RN is back to over 26 destroyers and frigates slow construction down to one every 18 months with continuous construction of type 31 and plan for air warfare variant of type 26 to either replace or supplement type 45s.
    If Clyde shipyards cannot meet this construction timetable then share the work around the UK.
    Dadsarmy will reply ” BAE did not invest in a frigate factory or the Clyde yards”. That is not really true the yards have had significant multi million investment but the frigate factory did not go forwards due to uncertainty caused by the bloody SNP voicing indyref2 wishes. Thus own goal SNP! You cannot expect investment whilst saying you dislike the rest of the UK and want to become a separate nation.

    • That should have had a smilie to show “no offence”.

      I’m an independence supporting Scot, but also a citizen of the UK. The priority for me generally though is defence, and only if there’s anti-Indy stuff in the article do I bother.

      Some indy supporters think the UK Gov used the Clyde as a stick to beat us over the head with. Perhaps. But I think the cash-strapped UK Gov’s priority is to get its ships built at the lowest price that can give it the quality it wants.

      This is a dilemma. On the one hand being committed a lot to BAE means BAE can invest in facilities and research knowing it’s going to get contracts. On the other hand it’s an increasingly competitive marketplace the MOD can take advantage of.

      That’s about it, really!

  11. Barrow builds Submarines, which may affect yard sizes. Though Vanguard class are significant. Appledore would require significant upgrade as I believe 90 meter vessel is the max. Additionally tidal effects are significant.
    I suppose I am saying, just because a site exists, it does not mean it can be used for all vessels.
    Therefore the argument for Scotland being critical actually does have some basis of truth. That is without looking at the people and ability to sustain the manufacturing base.
    North Devon infrastructure may not provide all that Glasgow can provide. Needless to say, the Irish seem very pleased with 3 OPV which Appledore provided.

  12. I am sure that the continuing possibility of Scotland becoming independent had an impact on the future shipbuilding strategy and there is no doubt that other yards could build components or indeed entire ships. However to suggest that such a situation would mean no work on the Clyde would also be disingenuous. Published proposals as part of the independence campaign show a need to build ship for a Scottish Navy that would augment those it negotiated to take on as it’s share of the current RN assets and then to replace those. It seems likely that the Clyde yards would likely get a similar amount of work from that route as it will under a building scheme which sees blocks being built across the UK and assembled in one or more locations. The work would just be on different vessels to the ones currently envisaged.

  13. The Tyne built the RN brilliant ships on time and on budget,think of Arc Royal, Illustrious plus many more before it was sold down the river by Thatcher. Swans put in a bid for helicopter platform type of their own design but lost out to the Vickers design HMS Ocean. Swans design was £50 million more and they said Vickers couldn’t do it for that price. Guess what Ocean came in £50 million more than quoted price. If my memory serves me it has only 1 hull..

  14. Can I just say that this MP along with every other SNP mp does not speak for most people in this country. Unfortunately they are trying their hardest to destroy the relationship between Scotland and England so they force through independence that majority in Scotland DO NOT want.

    Normal people in Scotland know that BAE Clyde is not the only yard in the UK that can build these ships but that doesnt mean to say that we cant either.


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