Parties finalise defence cut plea

Computer generated image of aircraft carrier
Image caption The carriers are being built on the Clyde and at Rosyth

Scotland's main political parties have struck a deal to raise concerns over possible defence spending cuts.

A UK government review has sparked fears for the future of two aircraft carrier orders and Scottish RAF bases.

Scottish ministers, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have now joined forces to stress the economic damage such action could do.

The agreement will form the basis of a submission to the MoD's strategic defence review.

There are fears the £5bn project to build two new aircraft carriers, on the Clyde and at Rosyth in Fife, could be downgraded, along with air bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is expected to make an announcement on spending at the end of October, and has stressed no final decisions have yet been made.

First Minister Alex Salmond, said: "The more united Scotland's voice is, the stronger it will be, which is why this cross-party submission is of vital importance.

"The document is about the compelling case for Scotland and Scottish jobs and skills.

"This is an issue that affects families and communities the length and breadth of Scotland, including the need to secure the aircraft carrier contract work being carried out on the Clyde and at Rosyth, and the RAF bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth currently under threat from the UK defence review."

Mr Salmond added: "Our best chance of success in achieving that goal will be if we act with maximum unity of purpose - anything which detracts from that will only serve to undermine that case."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said of the submission, to be published this week: "There have been significant additions made which recognise the socio-economic impact of the whole of the defence industry footprint on Scotland and its importance for jobs and apprenticeships all over the country.

"It also recognises the wider spin-offs from the defence industry for the rest of the Scottish economy."

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Conservative leader, added: "I have always argued that a robust case should be put forward for the Scottish contribution to the UK defence facility.

"Labour's financial mess poses very tough choices for the coalition UK government but this cross-party submission is a well documented, factual representation of how important that contribution is.

"It is essential that the MoD decision making process has the best information available from all sources."

And Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott, added: "It's really important to have cross party support to protect these jobs.

"I will be making the case for Scotland when I see Liberal Democrat Defence Minister Nick Harvey."

The Ministry of Defence is under pressure to cut its £36.9bn annual budget by up to 20%.

Concerns about the carriers were raised after BAE systems chief executive Sir Ian King told the Commons Defence Select Committee the company had been asked to consider a number of options ranging from "one carrier to no carriers".

Scottish ministers said cancellation could cost up to 10,000 jobs.

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