A PORTSMOUTH MP has expressed alarm after the Prime Minister committed himself to protecting Scottish defence jobs if Scotland stays in the UK.
David Cameron made a direct plea to voters north of the border as he visited the crew of HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines, in the west of Scotland.
He said: ‘Scotland counts for more on the world stage because it is part of the United Kingdom and Scottish defence jobs are more secure as part of the United Kingdom.’
But Portsmouth Mike Hancock said he was alarmed at the assurances to Scottish defence workers at a time when BAE Systems is undergoing a review of its shipbuilding operations in the UK.
Many fear it could see the defence giant’s Portsmouth shipyard closed, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, in favour of its Scottish counterparts on the Clyde.
Mr Hancock said: ‘I hope Cameron is not saying it’s them or us. That is the unanswered question.
‘I’m concerned that he is going to make promises to Scotland to secure a no vote (to Scottish independence) at the expense of jobs here in the south, not only in Portsmouth but other defence related jobs. The real issue is, will there be shipbuilding here?
‘There have been a lot of conversations about whether or not the navy are going to have three offshore patrol vessels.
‘There are rumours saying “yes” but no decision on where they are going to be built. In Portsmouth one or two would see the gap between aircraft carriers being completed and Type 26 frigates coming on stream.’
But Penny Mordaunt, the Conservative Portsmouth North MP, said it is not an issue of ‘either/or.’
She said: ‘What he is saying is, if you want shipbuilding to continue in Scotland you need to vote no in the referendum.
‘Although it’s legal for ships to be built by a foreign power, it’s obviously not favourable to do that.’
The BAE review is expected to be concluded after the Scottish referendum in September 2014.