As you read this, there are 13 warships in build or being procured at Scottish shipyards. However, there are thousands of real people on social media that would promise you that no ships are being built – but why?

I’ve even had people on Twitter tell me no ships were being built at Govan… whilst I was standing on one. That 13, by the way, is not counting the now built 5 Offshore Patrol Vessels, the planned Type 32 Frigates or the planned Ukrainian Naval vessel.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines


During the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, political campaigners hoping that Scotland would remain part of the United Kingdom made a big deal about the then-planned thirteen Type 26 Frigates the Clyde was to build. Those Type 26 Frigates ended up delayed, of course, and to fill the gap one batch of two and another batch of three Offshore Patrol Vessels were ordered to keep the workforce skilled and employed.

Then the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review came, and long story short it resulted in the change from thirteen Type 26 frigates to eight Type 26 Frigates to be built at Govan and five Type 31 frigates to be built at Rosyth. Due to commercial considerations, budget issues and a delay to work starting on the new frigates… thirteen ships at one yard became eighteen at two yards.

More work for more people at more locations, that’s a good result isn’t it? The shipbuilders seem to think so. I spoke to a contact who wishes to remain anonymous, he told me:

“This is great for the industry, a second yard building complex warships keeps more people in work and sets the yards up for larger programmes of follow-on work. It’s no secret that we’ll likely be building the Type 45 replacement, we’ve got work for decades and now so does Babcock at Rosyth.”

Well, if all is so good why am I writing this? Because despite this information being easily verifiable and heavily reported, people seem unaware of it. A good example would be the comments under any shipbuilding article we publish. Even in response articles detailing which ship will be built where, when the contract was signed, what type it is etc we’ll still get comments repeating one of the myths from people that haven’t read the article.

‘We were told this in 2014!’, ‘The ships were cancelled!’ or ‘More lies from Wastemonster’, anyone?

For more on those myths, have a look here. It’s a list of the most common ones I encounter.

Common myths about Scottish shipbuilding

I even made a video about it.

So, why is this happening?

Jonathan Chartier, a defence commentator, took a detailed look at this. He said that one key issue that has had significant influence over the often torrid debate when it comes to military ship building in Scotland is the reduction of the Type 26 procurement from thirteen to eight vessels.

The danger of politicising military shipbuilding in Scotland

“The often passionate arguments from those who support and oppose Scottish independence makes a balanced view of military ship building in Scotland and its future difficult as it can often end up with people shouting their ‘preferred’ facts at each other over social media rather then examining the issues. 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.”

BAE Systems Govan is shown above in CGI, with a Type 26 Frigate hull visible.

“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.”

 

Chartier explains where the idea that promised have been broken has come from.

“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. For a look at what Scottish shipyards are planning on building, this UK Defence Journal article goes into detail.”

He concludes, “Sadly this angry debate is set to continue with accusation, counter accusations and many a myth spun but in all this it does show the danger of politicising military shipbuilding”.

The change from thirteen Type 26 to eight Type 26, framed as a broken promise by some, has grown arms and legs and turned into the claim that no ships are being built in Scotland. People are, sadly, so confident of this that even in response to a photo of a ship being built on the Clyde… they are keen to argue that no ships are being built on the Clyde.

It seems very clear that social media, rather than the people using it, is to blame.

Social media encourages echo-chambers in which confirmation bias runs rampant. Essentially, people are shown news items that confirm what they already believe. Our social media feeds are personalised based on past clicks and likes behaviour, so we mostly consume political content that are similar to our views.

Without realising it, we develop tunnel vision.

Rarely will our comfort zones expose us to opposing views, and as a result we eventually become victims to our own biases. There are some studies that measure echo chamber effects, such as the study of Bakshy et al. (2015). In this study, they found that people tend to share news articles they align with. In addition to this, they discovered a homophily in the friendships online, meaning people are more likely to be connected on social media if they have the same political ideology.

This isn’t unique to Scotland, or shipbuilding, or any political party. It is a symptom of how social media influences debate. I don’t know how to fix it, I only know that it should be fixed.

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
19 days ago

Whilst I agree social media is definitely an echo chamber, I don’t think we can absolve ourselves of responsibility. We all need to be more responsible for our own thoughts and posts, whether it be how they are worded, or that we check our facts.

expat
expat
19 days ago

Sad but true article. But this is not new news, surely most people with a double digit IQ are aware of this echo chamber phenomenon. Perhaps social media apps should have a IQ test on sign up 🙂

Last edited 19 days ago by expat
Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
19 days ago

Excellent artical George, My take on it is that the SNP are deliberately turning a blind eye on the social media negativity as it plays into their game plan as they do not want it as common knowledge of just how much Scotland profits from building ships for the RN and just how much it will lose by gaining independence.
I just wish the government would promote more yards all over the UK (Belfast and the NE England) so we could build ships quicker and have a built in safety system “If” Scotland dose decide to get its independence.

Martin
Martin
18 days ago

Great suggestion Steven, how many parts of the UK do you think you can spread 13 frigates around? Especially if you have to spend billions to re build yards that have not built complex warships in decades and in almost all circumstances no longer exist as ship yards. Where are you going to find several thousand skilled ship builders in Belfast and Newcastle or are you planning to move them from Glasgow and Fife? Do you think many people would choose to move to Newcastle and Belfast for a laugh or do you think you might have to pay them… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
18 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Hello Martin, Its not going to happen over night granted but if we are to reduce the time it takes to build a vessel and compete with the rest of the EU and America who both have a build rate of 5 years for a Frigate/Destroyer sized vessel there-by reducing the cost of the build we have to open more yards, The people from Newcastle and Belfast moved to Scotland to find work in the ship yard there!!! The opening/reopening of yards South of the border must be part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and not be used a a… Read more »

Martin
Martin
18 days ago

Yes I fully agree with you, let’s just not bother with the RAF and the army and churn out frigates every 5 years to some how save money. Also Swan Hunter shut down 15 years ago and H&W ain’t built a ship since 2003. Do you honestly think there are ship builders sitting in Glasgow and Edinburgh now desperately waiting for ship building to resume so they can run back to Belfast and Newcastle? I don’t understand your point on 5 years and 10 years. Are you saying we should sell on our warships after this long in service? You… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
18 days ago
Reply to  Martin

The build time should be cut in half from 10 years as it is at the moment to 5 years as in the yards of Southern Europe and America there-by reducing construction costs.

Belfast and Newcastle still produce ships just not for the RN, they are both bidding for the new RFA’s (when and if they are ever ordered) so there would not be a vast exodus for Scotland to the South.

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
15 days ago

Right, and keep these multiple yards running how? All well and good saying get H&W/Devonport/Birkenhead/A&P building ships but just how many ships are going to need to be ordered to ensure the huge costs of upgrading and modernising them aren’t going to be wasted? Say an average 2/3 year build in dock and another couple for fitting out, trials and commissioning, that’s four ships needing ordering every other year basically or one per yard per four or five years if stretching it out, not preferable for numerous obvious reasons, and with a 25 year lifespan (assuming they are cheap enough,… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
14 days ago
Reply to  Ryan Brewis

Hello Ryan, Granted it is not going to be an easy option but with commitment from the government with RN/RFA orders within a national shipbuilding strategy that combined with a sheared approach along the lines of the aircraft carrier alliance we could have multiple yards building in conjunction with each other. If we are seen as a credible and competitive option for complex builds then we will win overseas orders as well but to do this we have to keep the build rate for Destroyer/Frigate sized vessels to within 5 years (as they do in Sothern Europe and the USA).… Read more »

Albion
Albion
19 days ago

I wish could get away from this word – ‘Independence’. Scotland is a more than equal part of a Union, so leaving that Union would be Secession.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
18 days ago
Reply to  Albion

A good point entirely lost on the Nationalists. Just look back over the last 150 years and see how many Prime Ministers and senior Ministers of the Crown were and are Scots. Facts will not shift ideologues.

criss whicker
criss whicker
18 days ago
Reply to  Albion

leaving that Union would be Secession.
have not countries been dragged to civil war over Secession,
just a thought

ewaste
ewaste
18 days ago
Reply to  Albion

“Scotland is a more than equal part of a Union…”

Oh now that did give me a good laugh😂

DRS
DRS
19 days ago

How to fix it – keep publishing articles such as this so that at least there are some verifiable facts😀. Keep up the good work.

peter fernch
peter fernch
19 days ago

Oh do keep up the Nats dont what to know, and if they did they would deny it

Mac
Mac
19 days ago

The explanation is quite simple. Scottish Separatists are prepared to outright lie through their teeth to achieve their objectives. This would be bad enough if it was your average social media goon typing away in their basement, but this is encouraged and practised by the elected SNP politicians..safe in the knowledge that they won’t be called out for it by a mostly bought off, compliant Scottish journalistic profession, who just don’t hold the SNP to account, for fear of damaging the cause…and they can simply ignore ‘the yoons’ that do call them out on their lies. Scotland is in a… Read more »

Martin
Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Mac

Or maybe no one in the electorate actually cares and it’s a total non issue. Or maybe that so many lies and mistruths were stated by the better together campaign than everyone just assumes every promise they made was a lie. Indeed I think the frigate promise was the only one actually upheld although it was many years late with multiple caveats.

Anthony Merrill
Anthony Merrill
19 days ago

Sure all the noise and myths aren’t coming from Scottish nationalists trying to convince the Scottish population that they are getting a raw deal? A major factor in Scottish yards obtaining so many orders was the Conservative Government’s desire to buy off Scottish voters in the lead up to the last independence vote. They sure didn’t award all those contracts to BAE Systems on the basis of value for money or on the basis of speedy delivery! So much for the NATIONAL Shipbuilding Strategy.

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
19 days ago

Hello Anthony, Spot on, If we had a national ship building strategy we would be turning out vessels every 5 years not 10 years as it is at the moment, this is doubling the price per unit also we should be using yards from all over the country and not using the building of RN vessels as a political move to keep the SNP at bay.

Martin
Martin
18 days ago

Where does the money come from this? After slicing off the only major defence product made in Scotland or does Scotland get to have its own jet fighter production or nuclear submarine building yard like England or do we get to make missiles like Northern Ireland or wings like Wales or are you just planning to punish people in Scotland for no apparent reason other than the place they were born?

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
18 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Hello Martin, No one is suggesting closing down the Scottish yards they are a centre of excellence for the UK’s ship building industry but we need more yards open, and have a nationals strategy for the building of RN/RFA vessels at a competitive price so that the UK can afford to build more vessels there by keeping the yards in production for the foreseeable future.

Martin
Martin
18 days ago

The last surface warship (escorts) built anywhere in the UK for the RN outside of central Scotland was at swan hunter in 1993 in a yard that no longer exists. There is literally no other choice for the UK government. Can you tell me how this represents buying off Scottish voters? When was the decision to buy off these Scottish voters made? 1993? If so that is some unusual foresight for the British government. You complain about Scottish Nationalist making crap up to suit their point then do the exact same. Do you not see how your part of the… Read more »

Anthony Merrill
Anthony Merrill
18 days ago
Reply to  Martin

There are several alternatives in England and Northern Ireland such as A&P in Falmouth, Harland & Wolf in Belfast and Appledore, Babcock in Devonport or a combination thereof. The Type 31’s could have easily been built in the covered yard in Appledore for instance. So, there are always alternatives, which is one of the take aways of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. The main conclusion is the distribution of shipbuilding so as not to be hostage to too few yards or suppliers to de-risk naval shipbuilding and for optimal value for money. The timing of the contract awards, the fact that… Read more »

Lusty
Lusty
19 days ago

Certainly food for thought. I normally avoid political posts, but I’d offer a few thoughts: Shipbuilding has obviously become a bit of a political football. Think of it in a similar way to contemporary debates surrounding fishing. Much like the fishing industry, shipbuilding is part of many communities in the UK: they hold a lot of passion for it and want to see their local yards do well. It’s entirely understandable that some individuals are annoyed about the change in direction and to an extent, they have a point. What they need to consider is the fact that the change… Read more »

Last edited 19 days ago by Lusty
Martin
Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Well said, unfortunately more than a few commentators on here like to perpetuate their own lies and mistruths primarily about Scottish yards being propped up at the cost of English jobs for nationalistic reasons with nothing to back it up. Unfortunately bitter nationalism with a tinge of xenophobia exist both north and south of the Tweed.

Adrian Flitcroft
Adrian Flitcroft
13 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Tell that to the workers in Portsmouth when the yard there was closed down in favour of Scottish Yards.

Ian M
Ian M
11 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

I’ve just read your post Mr Lusty, better late than never. It’s well written, eloquent and thought provoking, well done Sir.

Lusty
Lusty
8 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

Hey, Ian.

Many thanks for that. It means a lot. I’m glad someone else read it!

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
19 days ago

So, numerous frigates being built in Scotland and we’re given to understand that there is ‘outrage’ on Twitter over the their non-existence. Meanwhile, south of the border their ARE NO frigates being built in England/Wales and we hear “barely a tweet”. 🙄 I’m sure there’s an irony there somewhere, if I could put my finger on it. Seriously, though, there must be far more folk in Scotland that know the truth than there are negative-influencers? Don’t use these sites, so cannot say. I see Wiki states this one is primarily a ‘some-to-many service’; so ideal for agenda purveyors evidently. But… Read more »

Ian
Ian
19 days ago

Social media is one thing, but I also note increasing collusion between traditional media outlets and the powers-that-be (in this case the SNP, but on a UK-wide basis elsewhere and w.r.t other issues), rather than holding those powers to account. I assume this has something to do with the increasing financial difficulties that afflict traditional media- it is probably more expensive to investigate what’s going on than to regurgitate press-releases.

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
12 days ago
Reply to  Ian

Certainly in Scotland, Ian, the once mighty press barons are a shadow of their former selves. With much of their readership moved on-line, and sales down – they are increasingly reliant on Scottish Government advertising.

As some notorious recent political stories in Scotland have demonstrated, if Scots want to find-out what’s really happening – they don’t read the Glasgow/Edinburgh based media, but the London based press instead.

Martin
Martin
18 days ago

Maybe just stay off Twitter, no one on Twitter seems big on truth. But now your opened up your platform to another virulent anti Scottish debate helping no one. At some point George you need to realise your part of the problem and not the solution.

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
18 days ago
Reply to  George Allison

Well said George, I at least enjoyed your artical.

Alan McShane
Alan McShane
18 days ago
Reply to  George Allison

Thank you and thank you

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
7 days ago
Reply to  George Allison

Keep up the great work George. The documented truth bears repeating.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
18 days ago

There is no point in arguing with the ideologically driven. Just build and launch, build and launch. It won’t change a thing but the workers, communities and national reputation for ship building will be ample compensation. Thanks George.

Jim Riley
Jim Riley
17 days ago

I noticed that Glasgow is building a ship named Belfast,what’s happening to the one in the Pool of London?????

Lusty
Lusty
15 days ago
Reply to  Jim Riley

Nothing – she’ll just be named ‘HMS Belfast (1939)’ to differentiate between the two ships.

Ron
Ron
15 days ago

I’m not sure, but in my opinion it is not in the interest of the SNP to show how many people are employed by Westminster. So ship building carried out for the MoD or where Westminster has helped to develop new contracts such as with the Ukraine or Bangladesh does not help the SNP argument that Scotland is better off independent and that London does not care. So positives are hidden but negitives are thrown about.

George Parker
George Parker
15 days ago

Military contracts should be given to English yards.

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
12 days ago
Reply to  George Parker

Hi George, England and Scotland voluntarily extinguished themselves in 1707. We live in a unitary state called the United Kingdom.

George Parker
George Parker
12 days ago
Reply to  Alan Reid

Hi Alan, thanks once again for your confirmation of the union that led to the worlds largest empire. The problem is times are changing and according to election results and “Wee Jimmy Krankie” the poisoned blonde dwarf. Scotland wants to leave. A situation that is far from fandabidozi.

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
12 days ago
Reply to  George Parker

Hi George, But both Scottish Parliamentary elections and General Elections consistently show that Scotland doesn’t want to leave – despite what the SNP leader (or George Parker) may claim! 😀 The dynamic in Scotland is that the majority of Scots vote for so-called “unionist” parties. Those Pro-UK voters, however, don’t vote on a single issue. Instead they vote over a range of traditional areas: Economy, NHS, Education etc The outcome is a unionist vote split three ways across Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties – allowing a single issue minority party (SNP) to be elected. Even over Brexit – the… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Alan Reid
andy reeves
andy reeves
11 days ago

can we get a few progress reports on ship being built on the clyde?>

Jeffrey Edwards
Jeffrey Edwards
9 hours ago

Watching from Canada, this is very interesting, many of the same old problems in procurement, in addition to what is laid out here…