Plan T for the Trident bases at Faslane and Coulport in Argyll seems as absent as Plan B for the country’s currency, according to local MSP, Jackie Bailli, who says that a vote for independence is a vote to send thousands of local people to the dole queue.
This statement comes after the SNP refused yesterday, 6th August, to guarantee the jobs of those working at Faslane and Coulport.
11,000 jobs in total depend on the base. 6,700 [from Scotland’s Future, The Scottish Government, p. 483] people are directly employed by the Ministry of Defence and its contractors; with a further 4,500 [from EKOS report on economic contribution of the Royal Navy] provided through the supply chain.
However the SNP’s White Paper states that only 2,000 people would be employed by an independent Scotland’s Navy at Faslane [from Scotland’s Future, The Scottish Government, p. 239].
Speaking during a debate at Holyrood, Jackie Baillie asked Keith Brown MSP to confirm how many naval jobs would be provided at Faslane.
The SNP Veterans Minister avoided the question by referring to ‘military’ jobs instead.
Jackie Baillie says: ‘ Today the nationalists wanted to use Trident as a distraction to divert our attention from Alex Salmond’s poor performance in the TV debate and complete failure to give Scots a straight answer over what currency we would use if we leave the UK.
‘But instead they let their guard slip.
‘I wanted to know what would happen to jobs of the 6,700 Royal Navy personnel and their support staff in my constituency if we vote for separation. So why did the SNP refuse to admit that their own proposals, as published in the White Paper, would involve only 2000 naval jobs?
‘It’s clear that they have no plans for the thousands of other people working at the base now and those employed through the supply chain. These are well-paid and highly-specialised jobs and people in Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh won’t stand by while Alex Salmond throws them on the scrap heap.
‘Coming in the same week as defence giant Babcock demolished the SNP’s unworkable plans for a conventional base and warned that job losses at Faslane are likely, it is now absolutely clear that only a No vote on September 18 can save jobs at the base.
Jackie Baillie’s speech – and exchanges – at the Scottish Parliament
Jackie Baillie Dumbarton] [Lab]: ‘I am not naturally a cynic—[Laughter.] It would appear that the members of the front bench disagree.
‘However, I suspect that much of our time in the next few weeks will be spent debating issues that are the UK Parliament’s responsibility, all in an attempt to further the cause of the SNP’s campaign for independence.
‘Might I suggest to SNP members as gently as I can that, after the First Minister’s performance last night, they might want to have a debate about currency? After all, the people of Scotland deserve answers to that most fundamental of questions.
‘That said, I fully understand and sympathise with the SNP’s clear need to create a diversion. It is the oldest political tactic in the book – create a distraction and debate anything but the issue of the day, which is currency.
‘However, the people of Scotland were not fooled last night and they will not be fooled in the future, so let us have the transparency SNP members have been calling for in this debate. Let us clear the parliamentary diary to have a debate on currency because I think that people would welcome that.
The Deputy Presiding Officer: ‘However, the debate today is about Trident.’
Jackie Baillie: ‘Let me turn to Trident, Presiding Officer. My timing is impeccable. I have always acknowledged that there are many different views in this chamber – across parties and even within parties. However, wherever we stand—as a unilateralist or a multilateralist – we have a responsibility to consider the consequences of our actions.
‘Members have heard me speak before about the economic impact on Faslane and Coulport and I make no apology for doing so again.
‘At the moment, 11,000 jobs depend on the base. There are 6,700 employed directly at Faslane and Coulport – that is the most up-to-date figure supplied by the MOD – and there are a further 4,500 jobs in the supply chain, using standard income multipliers for local economic impact.’
Patrick Harvie: ‘Will the member give way?’
Jackie Baillie: ‘I want people to hear this because it is constantly questioned.
‘The base provides £270 million a year spend in the local area. I have not made these figures up. They are sourced from the EKOS survey done for Scottish Enterprise Dunbartonshire about the economic impact of the base.
‘Because of the decision of the UK Government to make Faslane the base for the entire UK submarine fleet, the number directly employed is expected to rise to 8,200 by 2022.
‘I am used to the cybernats hurling abuse at me on Twitter and I am used to members in the chamber trying to shout me down – the members of the front bench did it again today.
‘However, there is no getting away from those figures. They are facts. We are talking about real people who deserve to know whether they will have jobs if Scotland becomes independent. My local community needs to know what the likely impact will be. The jobs at Faslane are not low-paid, minimum-wage jobs. The people there are highly skilled workers, on good salaries.
‘They account for one quarter of the full-time workforce in West Dunbartonshire. Their loss would have a devastating impact on the local economy.
‘The SNP claimed that only 500 jobs are at stake. Then the figure doubled, to 1,000.
‘However, the reality is that there would not be a strategic need for the base, as currently configured.
‘Angus Robertson, the SNP’s defence spokesman, consistently refused to guarantee that the number of jobs that would be retained after separation would remain the same. [I will come back to Keith Brown in a minute].
‘John Swinney slashed the budget for defence by more than a third, more than using up any notional savings from Trident.
‘At the same time, while ministers promise extra spending on health and education, the reality is that the budget is slashed and it is all going on conventional defence, according to Angus Robertson and according to Alex Salmond himself,in his October 2012 conference speech.
‘The truth is that the SNP has not got a clue.’
Keith Brown: ‘Will the member give way? ‘
Jackie Baillie: ‘In a minute.
‘It is interesting that Stuart Crawford, a defence consultant to whom the SNP used to pay attention, until he jumped ship to the Liberals, has said that Faslane would sustain only 1,000 jobs in the future.
‘So what precisely are the SNP’s plans for the other 10,000? Are they simply to be thrown on the scrapheap? Do they not matter in an independent Scotland?’
Keith Brown: ‘So far, we have heard four different figures for the number of jobs at Faslane from the different parts of the Better Together campaign. Could she explain that? Will she acknowledge the STUC’s estimate of 1,536 jobs sustained by Trident? Surely, if she is going to peddle a scare story, she should get it right with her colleagues. ‘
Jackie Baillie: ‘I am not peddling a scare story. I have been consistent for 15 years about the economic impact at Faslane.
‘The SNP seeks to cloud that because it has no answers on jobs. To give it some credit, we can now examine some of its proposals. I understand why it has not told us about them before now because, on even the most cursory inspection, they fall apart.
‘I asked the minister how many naval jobs would be provided. I was told that it would be the same – 6,700, rising to 8,200.
‘However, page 239 of the White Paper simply says 2,000.
‘Where are the other 4,500 to 6,000?
‘I am happy to give way to the minister if he can tell me where those jobs are.’
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Can all sides conduct the debate through the chair, please?’
Keith Brown: ‘I will respond by saying what I said to Jackie Baillie before, which is that we would guarantee the same number of military jobs at Faslane.
‘However, she must reconcile all the different figures that her colleagues have given.
‘We have heard four different figures. We have heard figures of 8,000, 11,000 and 6,000 – which is right?
Jackie Baillie: ‘I asked about naval jobs. There are naval jobs at Faslane.
‘The minister replied about military jobs. He is going to put those people on the scrapheap. Under the SNP’s proposals, we discover that Faslane is not a conventional naval base. I could have told you that.
‘It will take 10 years to reconfigure so, from the outset.
‘Five of the 13 or so vessels that make up the Scottish navy will not be able to dock there.
‘There will be no submarines, and experts say that we are unlikely to get any offshore protection vessels.
‘We have two frigates. We hear that we could order another two. That is interesting. What frigates will the SNP build, because the intellectual property rights for the existing ones belong to the rest of the UK – a minor but important detail?
‘Further, an international traffic in arms regulations licence is required from the USA to use any defence equipment – even a bolt or a screw – that originates in that country.
‘Does the SNP even know what an ITAR licence is? Has it even made inquiries about how long that would take?
‘We are told that the SNP would commission the frigates in the first Parliament after independence.
‘Two years to negotiate separation and a possible further four years before the order is placed means that, potentially, it could be six years before the shipyards get anything to build. What do they do in the meantime? Twiddle their thumbs?
‘I am told that it takes a year to build a frigate. I am also told that a frigate lasts for 30 to 40 years.
‘Even if the Scottish Government replaces every single ship in the first few years, a Scottish navy will not sustain Scottish shipbuilding.
‘The ministers are laughing. They should listen, not only to me but to those who work in the industry: Babcock’s, BAE Systems, the trade unions and the workers at Rosyth and at Faslane and on the Clyde. They are the experts and, to be
frank, they think that the SNP’s plans are just plain daft.
‘Our ambition is to rid the world of nuclear weapons – to achieve global zero. The ultimate objective is shared but the mechanism by which we go about it is certainly not shared.
‘The SNP is simply using Trident to win a vote to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom. It is not serious.’
Editor’s Note: What is serious is the behaviour of front bench SNP Ministers that the parliamentary transcript above records. As it shows, Jackie Baillie experienced them today using the unedifying tactic developed to an extreme by First Minister, Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions – shouting people down and, with his immediate front bench cronies of Sturgeon, Swinney and Russell, rolling about in their chairs laughing at them – while they are raising serious but uncomfortable issues.
Yet, only yesterday, a bruised Alex Salmond, following Tuesday night;s televised debate with Alastair darling, complained to the BBC that Mr Darling had ‘shouted and pointed’ during the debate where, he, the First Minister knows that to win a debate you need to have a rational discussion n a range of issues. This piety will have come as a shock to those who weekly see the First Mister in action in the chamber – in what we call ‘the bawlfest’ he conducts to roar into obliteration the material concerns raised by the leaders of the opposition parties, two of them women.