Scaremongering at the Shipyards

Last week the UK Government’s Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, the arm of the British State which informs us of what’s good for us, published “Seperation Shuts Shipyards“.  Lets take a closer look at this investigation into the effects of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish Independence and its effects on the Shipbuilding industry.

The document was produced by the Scottish Affairs Committee, a body of eleven members, with six additional members serving on the committee during this parliament.  Of those seventeen members, six – over a third – represented English constituencies, while only one was a member of the party which currently enjoys the mandate of the people of Scotland to govern it.  At one level, this is clearly a problem given the remit of the committee, but a problem that goes much deeper than this report to the whole basis of the colonial authority which oversees us.

The remit of the report is to…

…explore how shipbuilding, and its associated industries, might be affected if Scotland became a separate country.

This exploration starts by highlighting the three Shipbuilding yards in Scotland, their importance to the military of the UK state, that the UK military never willingly builds warships outside the UK, as it wishes to maintain the ability to do so without relying on any other nation and notes that “maintaining the capability to build these warships means retaining the(se) particular skills.”  It states quite baldly that Scotland has the skills of high complexity builds and platform integration that the UK requires and  it is not effective to develop the specialist hull construction or complex assembly techniques that are required elsewhere.  Overall it makes a convincing case of why  the UK state would want to retain Scotland and its skilled workforce for its benefit.  What isn’t quite so clear is – given that they accept that the skills that they require are unavailable outwith Scotland – is how RoUK would cope in the event of a successful referendum, which you might think (given that a third of the committee represent RoUK) might have concerned them a tad.

The report discusses how the UK State uses Article 346 of the EU to avoid open tendering for military contracts, noting that the use of this article has never been challenged by another member state.  Taking advice from a representative of the Royal United Services Institute, it points out that if Article 346 was not in place, the contract would be open to EU tender and that an independent Scotland would have to tender under EU procurement rules.  Given the size of the UK military, the acknowledged specialist skills that Scotland has in this area coupled with the fact that no other country has built UK warships for over 200 years excepting in a few small cases, it would seem that Scotland would be extremely well placed to gain such a contract were it to be put out for open tender.

In this regard, independence would be a major boost to the Scottish shipbuilding industry.  There has never been a challenge to the UK state’s use of this opt-out, primarily because no other member state has the skills to compete under an open tender.  Scotland’s current position within the union means that it is unable to bring a challenge under Article 346, leaving it vulnerable to the whims of Ministry of Defence  allocation of contracts, highly influenced by domestic political priorities than simply where the skills, capacities and infrastructure is located within the UK.

In the next few years the UK state is about to commission thirteen Type 26 frigates – each costing between £250-£350 million, giving a total contract value in the region of £3-4 billion.  The report states that the UK military is faced with uncertainty given the prospect of the referendum and a Scottish exit from the UK.  The section concludes by stating that it is confident that were Scotland to stay in the Union, the contract would be awarded to the Clyde.  But appears to imply that in the event of a successful referendum, the preference of the RoUK MoD would be to build it at Portmouth – which, even if a challenge under Article 346 were unsuccessful, would require massive investment to develop the capacity needed.

In the event of a successful Article 346 challenge, it would thus seem that Scotland would be extremely well placed to gain this contract, as a preferential supplier over both RoUK and other EU suppliers.  The question then hinges on how likely such a challenge is to be successful.  For an EU member state to argue that it is in the interests of their national security for military supplies to be provided domestically raises major issues.    Were the UK to argue that provision of its military supplies by another member state was a threat to its national security in the event of a challenge, it would raise major questions over the relationship between the RoUK and Europe – particularly given the 2017 EU-exit referendum.

The next section of the report focuses on Refit and Maintenance  which is currently provided mainly at Rosyth, noting that such work require a dry dock and there is no suitable facility currently in existence in RoUK, noting that in the event of independence, a suitable facility would have to be found in England (sic – Wales and Northern Ireland take note!) or abroad.  Again it would seem that as a near neighbour and a fellow EU member, Scotland is again well placed to win such a contract. which would guarantee work over the next fifty years.  Again, RoUK would have to successfully apply for an Article 346 opt-out should it wish to build the dry dock, the munitions depot with a jetty and apply for it to obtain a munitions licence rather than awarding the contract to a fellow EU-member.

The report then goes on to speculate about a future Scottish Navy – which is quite frankly none of its bloody business. The Brit-nats really don’t seem to get this independence malarky do they.  The whole idea that Scotland will determine its own priorities rather than having them dictated to them by what the previous colonial authority thought that they should have just completely passes them by.  When Scotland gains independence then the people of Scotland will determine its own security arrangements.  How much, what for and where they will be built will all be determined by the people of Scotland, in accordance with whatever international treaties we choose to belong to.  That the whole point of independence.

On exports it suggests that Scottish shipbuilders are too technologically advanced to build the kinds of ships that the rest of the world requires.  It seems to consider that RoUK facilities are capable of massive upgrades to shipbuilding skills that taking on domestic contracts would require, but that Scottish shipbuilders are unable to build anything except the latest high-tech seafaring vessels.  GalGael, a dedicated and highly skilled base of people who develop craft ships might be able to set them straight on that one. Then it takes a wee detour to have a snipe at ridding Scottish waters of weapons of mass destruction and at the “expense and inconvenience” such a move would create for the UK.

So…from a close reading of the report, it would seem that Scottish Independence would allow Scotland to challenge Article 346, which currently allows the UK government to determine where within the current UK contracts will be awarded without any form of open competition or tendering; contracts which it would be very well placed to win on the basis of its skills, experience and infrastructure, while allow the Scottish shipbuilding industry to reduce its dependence on one market and to refocus on less militarised production, broadening its skills and capacities to build up the export market which the UK has stifled.   Strangely enough that wasn’t the conclusions they drew.

Ian Davidson, Chair of the Scottish Colonial Authority, Scottish Affairs Committee handily boiled the whole thing down to – boom, doom and gloom.

It is announced that contract which the report suggests is at least two years from being awarded “will” be awarded to the Clyde if we stay in the UK, presumably as a reward for good behaviour.

On leaving the UK, it is suggested that we will get only “scraps”, which tells you how the Unionists actually regard us – as hungry waifs to be chucked some crumbs every so often.

Noting that the Scots lack the warmongering tendancies of the UK, Davidson speculates that a Scottish Navy will not keep the yards busy (cos for the UK thats pretty much what ships are for, so that we can get to other countries to bomb them) and unilaterally announces that there will be no export work  (Too wee, too puir, too stupit – you see!)

The irony of all this is that Davidson is not only the Chair of the Select Committee, but he is also the MP for the Govan area which includes the main shipbuilding yard on the Clyde (and, for that matter, GalGael).  The leaflet above was distributed the memorial lecture for Jimmy Reid, who famously led the Clyde Shipworkers work-in in the 70s when the UK government threatened 6,000 jobs.  A fierce supporter of independence, he knew fine well the trickery of the bosses and the unionists.

What that report does is highlight the importance of the Scottish shipbuilding industry to the UK state, and particularly to its military, offering us sweeteners to go with the crumbs, with the veiled threat of a kicking if we don’t do as bid, while the British media laps it up.  The real question, which the report doesn’t address but should is what are they going to do without us.

But as with all else, never mind the facts, never mind the possibilities, never mind the opportunites, never mind being able to set your own priorities or determine your own future, values or ethics.   Just remember, Seperation Shuts Shipyards, and Vote Britain.

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