PORTSMOUTH is the first-choice home for British naval shipbuilding if Scotland votes to go independent today, The News understands.
As the polls open for the historic referendum, shipbuilders at both ends of the UK wait for a result which could have huge consequences for their future.
If Scottish voters say ‘yes’ to independence, Portsmouth has been earmarked as the most likely yard to take on shipbuilding work.
Last November, workers at BAE Systems were told the Portsmouth shipbuilding operation was closing and operations would move to the Clyde in Scotland.
But a ‘yes’ vote would mean the British government moving the industry back to England.
Gary Cook, the GMB union’s regional organiser with responsibility for shipbuilding in Portsmouth, said: ‘At this late stage, there are jobs haemorrhaging in Portsmouth and just a few remain at BAE now.
‘It is a matter for Scotland to vote how they wish. But we do have in our constitution the requirement for complex naval vessels to be built in the sovereign nation.
‘The government is going to have a real problem on their hands if Scotland is no longer part of the UK.
‘They will be duty-bound to look at a facility in England or Wales. The obvious choice will be Portsmouth.
‘I think the people who have been thrown out on the scrapheap will be watching this avidly.’
Defence secretary Michael Fallon previously hinted naval shipbuilding may have to leave Scotland if it becomes an independent country, saying: ‘UK warships are only built in UK shipyards’.
A spokeswoman for BAE Systems said: ‘The decision on independence from the UK is a matter for the people of Scotland.
‘However, BAE Systems has significant interests and employees in Scotland and it is clear that the continued union offers greater certainty and stability for our business.
‘In the event that Scotland voted to become independent, we would need to discuss the way forward with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and UK government.’
An MoD spokeswoman asked about the future of the dockyard in Portsmouth added: ‘Both the UK government and Scottish government have said that there can be no pre-negotiations on independence.
‘The UK government will continue to act in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, unless people in Scotland vote to leave it.
‘Therefore it would not be appropriate to enter into any discussions or negotiations that would require the government to act in the interests of just England, Wales and Northern Ireland until people in Scotland have had their say.’