CLAIMS the government has asked BAE Systems to ‘mothball’ the Portsmouth ship building yard have been rubbished.
Portsmouth, Govan and Scotstoun – on the Clyde – are under threat as part of a major review by the defence giant which will see manufacturing cease at one of them.
Reports in the Scottish press claim the MoD approached BAE asking it not to close Portsmouth completely in case Scotland votes yes to independence in the 2014 referendum.
A decision is expected early in the new year but Portsmouth is the most likely candidate with 1,300 jobs at risk.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said of the mothballing claims: ‘I think that’s a bit of wishful thinking on the part of the Scottish shipyards. We will still be building parts of the aircraft carrier in 2014.
‘The government has always been very sceptical, I don’t think anybody really believes that the Scottish will win a referendum.
‘This is them trying to build their own case.
‘If there was a serious chance (of independence) obviously it would make sense. One country wouldn’t want their own ships predominantly built in another country.
‘Where do you home base the submarines? In another country which could veto your right even to go to sea?
‘There are lots of unanswered questions relating to the Scottish referendum.
‘Before too much speculation takes place we need to know what BAE’s review says.’
A spokesman for the MoD said it would not comment on speculation and it is still working with BAE.
That was echoed by BAE which said in a statement: ‘We continue to work closely with the Ministry of Defence to explore all possible options to determine how best to sustain the capability to deliver complex warships in the UK in the future.
‘This work is ongoing and we are committed to keeping our employees and trade unions informed as it progresses.’
Around 1,300 jobs are dependent on the company’s plan to build two offshore patrol vessels to avoid a construction gap from 2014, when work in Portsmouth is due to be completed on the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
The refurbishment and maintenance of ships would not be affected by the closure and there has been speculation that it would be boosted if all ship building was moved to Scotland.