By Bob Duncan

Newly released documents have revealed how the the Rosyth Naval Dockyard in Fife was the victim of a pro-England bias at the heart of John Major’s Government.

The papers reveal the concern at the Scottish Office over what a high ranking official described as “anti-Rosyth” lobbying by the Ministry of Defence that led to decisions being taken that defied the objective advice available at the time.

The revelations, published in the Scotsman newspaper, show how contracts worth billions of pounds that would have meant work for thirty years were awarded to the Devonport yard in Plymouth, despite clear evidence showing that the logical choice should have been Rosyth.

Both dockyards were competing for the contract work and the previously classified files reveal a growing anger within the Scotland Office, with the then Secretary of State Iain Lang describing the awarding of the contract work to Devonport as “transparently indefensible”.

Hundreds of jobs were lost at Rosyth when the work went to England.

Commenting today, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

"These shocking documents reveal the MoD’s utter disregard for Scotland and its defence communities, exposing as they do, the desire to consolidate everything it possibly could in the South of England regardless of cost or logic.

"The alarming allegations that 'deeply suspicious' figures were being presented to the Secretary of State for Scotland by Malcolm Rifkind’s MoD means we can trust little they say.  For people in Fife, the revelations about the MoD having an ‘anti-Rosyth’ lobby - as demonstrated by the way it was singled out as a base - will be nothing short of appalling.

"It was clearly a concerted effort by the MoD for the Rosyth shipyard to lose work in order to close the neighbouring naval base leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs.  It is also now clear that warnings from the most senior Royal Navy officers in Scotland at the time that incorrect and misleading information was being used were raised - but to no avail.

"For Ian, now Lord Lang, then Scottish Secretary to suggest as he does in a letter to the prime minister John Major, that closing Rosyth would lead to defending the ‘transparently indefensible’ only adds to the chilling sense of cynicism.”

The documents release comes at a time when BAE Systems is facing the prospect of having to close one of three UK yards due to a lack of UK defence contracts after cuts in Government defence spending.  The yards facing closure are the Clyde based Govan and Scotstoun yards and a third based in Portsmouth.

BAE Systems employ 3,500 workers at the Scottish yards and a further 5,000 at the English site.  The firm has said it does not have sufficient work to keep all three sites open.  A decision was expected last year, but this has been delayed, reportedly due to political pressure.

The yard in Portsmouth is widely believed to be the most vulnerable; however the release of the documents will lead to fears that pressure from the UK government will lead to one of the Glasgow yards suffering the same fate as Rosyth.

Mr Robertson added: "This litany of alarming letters and memos from the time is yet more evidence of the shameful and growing dossier of defence cuts and underspend in Scotland by successive Westminster governments.

"They make it clear that the anti-independence parties have been saying one thing in public and a completely different thing in private, and that has being going on for years and years.  To come after yet more scare stories and utter fabrications were spread by the Labour dominated Scottish Affairs Select committee about the Clyde shipyards shows once again there is no low to which the anti-independence campaign will not stoop.

"It seems that the Ministry of Defence will not be content until the vast majority of the defence industry and personnel is heavily skewed in the South East and South West of England.  This sorry episode is yet another illustration of why Scotland must make better decisions for itself with Independence – and a Yes vote in the referendum in 2014 is the only way to achieve that ''

The release of the documents is a severe blow to the anti-independence campaign which has consistently claimed that only by remaining in the Union can Scottish shipbuilding jobs be secured.


# Rafiki 2013-02-18 20:31
All that was left at Rosyth was the hulks of 7 nuclear submarines; take it that Portsmouth did not feel they were safe.
# bringiton 2013-02-18 20:36
An ongoing campaign by Westminster to denude military assets based in Scotland.They would have moved Trident out of the Clyde by now if there was a ready solution and if we vote Yes,expect to see a lot of military aircraft flying south for the winter.
We will just have to tot it all up when it comes to negotiating our share of UK military assets and deduct it from our share of the debt.
# call me dave 2013-02-18 21:01
Absolutely the case, many of my friends and neighbours who worked there in key jobs knew that the decision was based on politics rather than on quality and economics. All eventually took the golden handshake with 15 or so years to go before official retirement age.

But still they vote for the Red Tories in that part of Fife in the hope that things will change OR that the scare stories might be true. Sad really.
# Union City Blues 2013-02-18 21:20
Why has the decision on which yard is to close been postponed? Political reasons isn't a reason. Is the political reason that the UK government need to wait until the independence vote is over? They cannot close either in case it backfires depending on how the vote goes. To close either is a PR victory for the Yes campaign. To close the 'better' Scottish yard is a kick in the teeth for Scotland and an acceptance the Yes will win. To close Down South is an admittance that their scare stories about no military contract for Scotland after independence is a lie.
# clootie 2013-02-18 22:06
I've just realised that I have misunderstood the slogan "better together" I had thought it suggested both parties. I now see the play on words - it is better for one partner if we are together.
# Mad Jock McMad 2013-02-18 22:48
BAE Systems have already stated their wish to close Portsmouth, Vince Cable has agreed with BAE that closure of the Portsmouth yard makes economic sense, currently the final steps are being taken to close Portsmouth with consultations with the Unions and a package is being put in place to support new business / new business use of the BAE part of the ex-RN dockyard. Basically Portsmouth is not fit for purpose and BAE are not interested in investing the billions of pounds required to make it fit for purpose. Govan and Scotstoun remain core to BAE's surface warship division.
# colin8652 2013-02-19 05:47
This article should be printed off and put through every letterbox from Dunfermline to Kinross.
# BigHeed 2013-02-19 10:20
This article is the perfect example of my worries with the YES campaign.

I understand the need for positive messages to be put to the general public and not scaremongering but they MUST find a balance of drawing these kind of things to everyone's attention. There is so little coverage of this story in the media(yes I am shocked at this) so unless you look up sites like NNS they will never know what is happening.
# Blanco 2013-02-19 10:25
We should expect the Clyde yards to be reprieved until just after the indy vote. After all, the exact same thing happened after the 1979 vote - scaremongering about closing factories, which then closed anyway under Thatcher. It is all part of the retreat and retrenchment of the British Establishment which has been going on for decades now.
# Hugo 2013-02-19 10:40
"Shocking new documents reveal the extent of anti-Scottish bias in UK Defence spending"

I disagree with the headline! . . The article shows pro-south east bias as in 'Get work for the south east (of England) no matter where else suffers.' rather than 'Don't let Scotland get the work.' . . . People in the north of England are familiar with the attitude. They are also starved of work.
# RJBH 2013-02-19 12:41
No I dont accept that either...The pecking order.. I accept that there is a pecking order..London and home counties first, anywhere else in England second, the rest is expendable, and can have whatever England does not need
# RTP 2013-02-19 14:18
Sorry for being O/T.but has anyone else noticed that on the Democracy Live website only Scotland has had the "Who's who by party". removed is this an oversite or something else they have been told to do by "Bitter Together"
# beejay48 2013-02-19 15:37
It's all about votes not about doing Scotland down, that's just a nasty byproduct. Tory votes in Scotland have are like hens teeth. So, better to keep the South West happy as that may get you a few MP's into Westminster especially when the Lib. Dems. were on the up, as they were, at the time in the area. We are in a no hope political pincer up here from Westminster. The Tories have one MP's here so they can and do ignore us, the Labour Party are almost guaranteed a batter of MP's from Scotland so they also ignore us in favour of buttering up the marginals down south in the forlorn hope they can get back into power. Heads we lose, tails were stuffed. God bless these servents of the people, at least the ones that live in the right place and that place is not Scotland.
# Dundonian West 2013-02-19 16:18
OT.As Russia sees us.
Short and sweet.
The world is talking about Scotland and Indy-----good.
# Northesk 2013-02-19 18:19
A very interesting link. The report says it all. I wonder if the censors of the UK mainstream media (especially those in Scotland) were also aware of it.
# macdonald88 2013-03-01 08:27
"the MoD’s utter disregard for Scotland and its defence communities" presumably led to it building two enormously expensive aircraft carriers in Scotland..?

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.


Donate to Newsnet Scotland


Latest Comments