Glasgow & West Scotland

Union 'confident' about future of BAE Systems' Clyde yards

Workman standing in the Govan shipyard in Glasgow, owned by BAE Systems
Image caption Unions want BAE to make its decision on the future of the yards "sooner rather than later"

Union officials at BAE Systems' two Scottish shipyards have called for a decision on their future to be made as quickly as possible.

The firm has three major shipyards in the UK - in Portsmouth, and at Govan and Scotstoun on the River Clyde.

Its UK chief executive Nigel Whitehead has said one could close, with a decision made by the end of the year.

Union spokesman Jamie Webster told BBC Scotland he was confident "the Clyde will come through this."

He said he believed the Scottish yards were less at risk than the BAE site at Portsmouth.

"Obviously going into the yard this morning there will be heightened apprehension," he said.

"I have emphasised very strongly to the company that the sooner the announcement is made the better. The delay in the announcement will not help anybody.

"Obviously that would be in the next two to three weeks, before Christmas, so that we know exactly where we are in relation to the future. Although I am very confident that the Clyde will come through this."

He added: "We are not complacent, or arrogant, we are just confident that we will come through this. I always equate it to a football team. If you are the best player, you will be playing."

The future of BAE's three main shipyards after two new aircraft carriers are completed has been in doubt for some time.

There are fears there will be insufficient work available to keep all three busy and profitable as cuts in defence spending take their toll.

Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Whitehead said: "We anticipate that there will be a reduction in footprint and we anticipate... that part of that might actually be the cessation of manufacturing at one of the sites."

Earlier this year the company appointed consultants to carry out a review of the business. The firm's yard in Portsmouth is widely believed to be the most vulnerable, with 1,500 jobs at risk.

BAE Systems says it is working closely with the government to explore all options for maintaining the UK's shipbuilding capability.

The Ministry of Defence says that it is up to the company itself to decide how best to deliver the naval vessels it has already agreed to produce.

The Scottish government has called on politicians across the Scottish parliament to come together to support Scotland's shipyards.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was vital politicians "put differences aside" to ensure the strongest possible case is made for the Clyde yards.

She added: "We have to remember that Scotland's yards are in a strong position - a point that union officials are rightly stressing - based on their excellent industrial and engineering capability.

"The Scottish government is monitoring this situation closely, and will work with BAE, the UK government and opposition parties in Scotland with the clear aim of ensuring that any future plans protect Scotland's shipbuilding yards and the highly-skilled jobs that depend on them."

Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, called for "urgent talks with BAE to make the case for all the yards staying open".

He pledged to work with the government and other parties to "protect the interests of Scottish shipbuilding."

In October, BAE Systems and Franco-German firm EADS cancelled their planned merger, after talks were thwarted by political deadlock.

The UK had wanted its counterparts to agree to limit their influence in the merged firm in order to maintain BAE's strong working relations with the US Pentagon.

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