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 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 and assembled on the Clyde.
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.