The UK’s next-generation combat ships will be built in Scottish shipyards despite concerns the work could be moved abroad, the UK’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed.
Speaking during his first visit to Scotland since the Scottish independence referendum, Fallon reassured there should be "no confusion" regarding where the new Type 26 frigates will be built.
"So far as the T-26 ships are concerned, it has always been envisaged that they will be built on the Clyde and I can confirm that today,” Fallon said while touring the Rosyth Dokyard in Fife, where he checked on the building progress of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
"It's a very complex new warship that's under design at the moment. We're obviously working towards announcing some of the long-lead items I hope early next year," he said about the awaited Type 26 Global Combat Ship, or frigate, contract. "We're not quite ready yet to announce it, but they are going to be built on the Clyde."
Fallon’s statement comes soon after the controversial remark of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, the head of the Royal Navy, suggesting the £4bn deal for the frigates could be awarded outside the UK.
Defence contracts were a key issue in the run-up to September's independence referendum, with pro-union politicians claiming Scotland's shipbuilding industry would automatically be precluded from MoD deals in future if it left the UK.
John Robertson, MP for Glasgow North West, which includes the Scotstoun shipyard on the Clyde, commented on Fallon’s announcement: "This is good news for the communities I represent.
"Since the First Sea Lord's comments in Defence News, workers on the Clyde have been living with the uncertainty that their jobs might not be there. The announcement today can draw a line under that speculation, and allow the thousands of workers and their families to breathe a sigh of relief that their jobs are secure."
The Defence Secretary's visit came a day after a large protest against the Trident nuclear deterrent to be based at Faslane naval base. However, Fallon said reconsidering the UK’s nuclear weapons system was not an option at the moment.
"The nuclear deterrent keeps all of us safe in England, in Scotland, in Wales and Northern Ireland,” he said.
"We have the main decision to take in 2016 to renew Trident so that is a decision for the next Parliament, but successive governments have always reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear deterrent and I'm in no doubt the next Parliament and the next government will do that too."
Last month it was announced that two of the Royal Navy's Trafalgar Class submarines are being moved to the Clyde naval base from their current site in Plymouth, making the Scottish base the most important UK submarine hub.
Eventually, Clyde is to become the Royal Navy's Submarine Centre of Specialisation.
HMS Talent and HMS Triumph will be at the Faslane base by 2020.