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The UK Defence Journal is run by volunteers who strive to ensure that correct information about the military is shared. It recently released an article claiming to debunk many incorrect assertions about Scottish shipbuilding – particularly relating to Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracts.
One of the chief ones was that a “promise” to build 13 frigates before the 2014 independence referendum was broken when it was reduced to eight in 2017.
At the time Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I think people should be looking to the UK government and reflecting on the fact there has been lots of promises made.”
Rubbishing this claim, the site said: “One key issue that has had significant influence over the often torrid debate when it comes to military ship building in Scotland is the reduction of the Type 26 procurement from 13 to eight vessels.”
It said that the numbers were reduced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015.
As a result of the reduction, it said five general purpose frigates were designed and ordered.
“These became the Type 31 Frigates and they were ordered from Babcock at Rosyth (in Scotland).
“Part of the reason for this change was understood to be that the MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement.
“There are plans for eight Type 26 Frigates and five Type 31 frigates to be built in Scotland, five River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels have been launched.
“The original plan was for 13 Type 26 Frigates at one yard, years later the plan is now 18 vessels of three types sustaining work at three yards.”
Defence commentator Jonathan Chartier said: “The Royal Navy would have a projected number to be built.
“It was not unusual for the number of batches to be reduced or on some occasion increased as needed without comment by the wider general public to satisfy the requirements of the Admiralty and, always lurking in the background, (the) Treasury.
He added: “It was unfortunate with a Scottish Independence referendum in the running (that) David Cameron and the Better Together campaign unwisely turned routine procurement that could be subject to change into a political football by making it a direct promise to Scotland.”
Another of its myths was that “Scotland gets the scraps off the table” when it comes to MoD shipbuilding contracts.
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It added: “Scottish yards are building the entirety of the frigate fleet and the Offshore Patrol Vessel fleet, more than anywhere else in the UK.”
They also claimed that many people think “Scotland was betrayed when work on the (naval) tankers went overseas”.
This relates to it being announced in 2012 that four 37,000-ton Royal Auxiliary Fleet naval tankers would be built in South Korea.
The site, whose volunteers seek to debunk military myths, wrote: “Many have also misconstrued the building of naval tankers in South Korea for the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) as a break in this policy (of only building navy vessels in the UK), that is not the case.
“Support vessels like this were (at the time) eligible to be constructed outside the UK as only ‘complex warship’ construction (such as frigates) must stay within UK borders.
“Besides, no Scottish yard actually bid for the work.”
Sir Bernard Gray, former Chief of Defence Materiel in the MoD leading Defence Equipment and Support Defence Equipment and Support, told the site: “No UK yards actually bid on the oilers.
“About one month before contract award an It/UK combo put forward a non-binding proposal.
“It was multiple times the cost of the contract awarded.”
Its final Scottish myth was that during the 2019 general election campaign the “Labour Party exacerbated the situation with a leaflet spelling out that if Scotland remained in the Union it would get 13 Type 26 frigates”.
SNP Nicola Sturgeon also falsely claimed this would be the case.
But the government pointed out that UK military naval work could only be done in UK shipyards – which wouldn’t apply to a newly independent Scotland.
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