Scottish shipyards need “greater clarity” from the UK Government over where contracts for new naval vessels will be placed in the coming decades, MPs have said.
Members of the Scottish Affairs Committee made the plea as they challenged ministers to set out why a recent £1.6bn contract for the construction of three naval support ships had gone to an international consortium – which will see some of the building work take place in Spain.
MPs are demanding to know whether the successful bid from the Team Resolute consortium was in effect the cheapest. That deal will see some of the construction work being carried out at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz – with MPs describing the contract award as an example of a shift in the UK Government’s approach to warship procurement.
In a new report on military shipbuilding, the MPs insisted more jobs in the UK and Scotland in particular would have been supported if ministers had opted for an alternative bid from UK firms.
The UK Government's decision appears to prioritize short-term savings over longer term economic gains for Scotland and the rest of the UK, the committee said.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has previously said that awarding the contract to Team Resolute would be a significant boost to the UK's historic shipbuilding industry, with work to be done at the Harland & Wolff yards in Belfast and at Appledore in Devon.
MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee however stressed the need for Westminster to give Scottish shipbuilders the confidence to continue to invest in the future.
Their report, published after an inquiry into military shipbuilding north of the border, highlighted the importance to Scottish shipyards of maintaining a dependable 'drumbeat' of orders to allow them to invest and grow.
The Ministry of Defense spent £1.11bn on shipbuilding in Scotland in 2020-21 – supporting some 7,700 jobs in the industry. While the MPs said the days of 'feast and famine' must not return for Scottish yards, they added there remains some uncertainty about the pipeline in the 2030s and 2040s.
Their report insisted: The Scottish shipbuilding industry should not be given cause to doubt that it will have a consistent order book in the future, so long as it continues to deliver on its commitments to its Government customers.
A shift in approach from the UK Government means it is no longer the default position that warships will be designed and built fully in the UK, the committee said – adding that this is of concern to some in the Scottish military shipbuilding sector.
It follows speculation that the multibillion-pound contract for five new Type 32 frigates for the Navy at the Rosyth dockyard in Fife could be axed.
In the wake of that, the committee challenged the UK Government to confirm whether the Ministry of Defense still intends to order the Type 32 frigates as set out in the National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh.
Speaking as the report was published, committee chairman Pete Wishart said: Military shipbuilding is a major Scottish success story. From Rosyth to Glasgow, we have military shipbuilding hubs that boost local economies and invest in skills and training.
He hailed a recent announcement that Type 26 frigates are to be built by BAE Systems in Glasgow as being a major vote of confidence in the Scottish shipbuilding sector.