Liberal Democrats react to BAE shipyard closures and job losses

Today’s news that 1775 jobs will be lost at BAE systems yards across the country and shipbuilding ended completely in Portsmouth has been met with concern by senior Liberal Democrats. Nobody ever wants to see major facilities being closed and so many people without work. It’s no surprise that one yard was going to have to close once the work was done on the aircraft carriers,  but foreknowledge doesn’t make it any easier.

First of all, Portsmouth Council leader Gerald Vernon Jackson told the BBC that this was the wrong decision at the wrong time and that the Government should have waited until the Scottish independence referendum was over to preserve shipbuilding capacity in England in the event of independence.

I’m not convinced that the situation would be any different if they had waited. Surely Govan as the bigger yard was more likely to be the one to stay open anyway, in the more likely event that Scotland votes to stay in the UK.

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, had this to say:

The announcement today was the best available news. The size of the Clyde workforce was always going to peak with the aircraft carrier work. By providing new MoD orders for the Clyde in the gap before the Type 26 frigate work begins we are putting the yards on a sustainable footing. We are also ensuring that the skills of the workforce are retained.
I fully understand however that it is still a very difficult time for the families of those workers who face the possibility of losing their job.
It is a tribute to all of those in Govan and Scotstoun that the commercial decision has been made to make the Clyde the home of British naval shipbuilding.
Today’s news confirms there is a clear and defined future for workers on the Clyde. I welcome that assurance. It is important that we keep the world-class skills we have built up in Scottish shipbuilding over many decades and this decision means the yards can now plan for a productive future within the UK.

 Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added:

Even though this is not a surprise it is still a difficult day for Portsmouth and those who will lose their job in Scotland.

It has been concluded for some time that only one yard would be required and could be afforded after the construction of the aircraft carriers. The experts know that the Clyde has outstanding facilitates and workforce to fulfil that role.

With the Clyde the Royal Navy is one of the most powerful on the seas and the Clyde has provided good work for thousands of people. This announcement secures that legacy.

The agencies and government must work together to find employment for those who have lost out today.

It’s not an easy day for either community. The most important thing is to ensure that those who lose their jobs in both locations get the best support possible. That will require governments to work in a co-ordinated fashion with various agencies and local councils to ensure that happens – and to do all they can to ensure there are decent jobs for those being made redundant to go for. It is very sad, though, to see what was once a huge and thriving shipbuilding industry reduced to a such a tiny fragment.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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