ACTION needs to be taken to secure Royal Navy shipbuilding in England amid fears Scotland could leave the UK, a former First Sea Lord has said.
Lord Alan West made the comments to The News this morning after it was revealed a deal to bring shipbuilding back to Portsmouth had collapsed.
We have got very little resilience if we need to build up a maritime force and building ships quickly.Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord
The Labour peer said that currently the only shipbuilding facility for the Royal Navy is in Scotland – something which he is concerned about if the UK voted to leave the European Union.
‘I am not impressed at all. It’s part of the slow erosion of our maritime capability in this country,’ he said.
‘We have got very little resilience if we need to build up a maritime force and building ships quickly.
‘The reality is that we need a second ability to build ships somewhere else other than Scotland.
‘Let’s say if we left the EU and then Scotland decides to have another vote and leaves the UK where would that leave us?
‘We need to have a greater capacity – that’s hard and we will need to pay for it.
‘But I think it’s too important, in this very dangerous world that we now live in, to let this ability drift away.’
The comments come after prime minister David Cameron was accused of betraying Portsmouth following the announcement that a deal to bring shipbuilding firm Magma Structures into the naval base’s empty shiphall had caved in.
Lord West has criticised the PM, who pledged that shipbuilding will be brought back to the city after BAE Systems pulled the plug on it in 2014, when it moved the operation in 2014.
The former top sailor added: ‘I think it’s reprehensible to make promises that you’re not keeping unless there’s a very good reason. He (Mr Cameron) should have thought beforehand.
‘I think it’s very unfortunate that politicians some to think that they can make promises before an election and that it’s perfectly okay not to keep them after the election.’
Lord West has said the government needs to look at securing shipbuilding in Portsmouth.
Although that would be tough, he explained, it would not be impossible.
‘Rather than putting three more OPVs (offshore patrol vessels) on the Clyde what they should have done is ordered the frigates first then if they wanted three more OPVs they could have been built in Portsmouth.
‘To not have a building ability down in Portsmouth is very short-sighted.’