Davidson’s Choice: State or People

The shock that greeted Ian Davidson’s infamous remark about naval shipbuilding contracts containing a break clause in the event of independence shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He was already considering this nearly a year ago, on December 19 during evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee.

In questioning the minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne and Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews, Davidson expressed surprise when the witnesses failed to answer emphatically his question about naval contracts being withheld from Clyde yards (and Rosyth) after “separation.” The MP became a little irascible when the minister declined to be specific about the date for making the Main Gate decision on the new Type 26 frigate. Davidson tried to tie the decision into September 2014 but Dunne told him: “You not going to be able to persuade me to be more specific…”

Davidson: “I mean 11 and 12 are at the beginning of the decade and18 and 19 are at the end of the decade. Is 13 at the begining or in the middle of the decade?”

The minister goes on to say that it is likely that the placing of a contract (for Type 26) will already have taken place by the time Scotland theoretically achieves independence in 2016.

Davidson: “So the placing of the contract for the 26 might have taken place after the referendum but before separation took place in that timetable. Would it be your intention to have a for-convenience clause in some way, so that if an order is placed and the company puts it on the Clyde, in the event of separation that the order is switched elsewhere?”

Dunne: “I’m not going to speculate on what the terms of the contract will be at this stage….” He adds; “The date of the referendum is not influencing the date of the placing of the contract for the type 26. That is being determined by the maturity of the design and that is being driven by the defence operational requirements, not the political requirements of the Scottish Government.”

If he’d added: “…and you can pull that down tight over your baldy heid, ya wee bag o’ wind”, it would have encapsulated the moment neatly.

However hard Davidson tried, he couldn’t shake the gentlemen from the MoD into giving him his headline – that defence contracts for warships on the Clyde would definitely end if Scotland voted Yes.

Indeed a closer read of the oral evidence suggests that today’s announcement ending shipbuilding on the south coast confirms Royal navy plans to use the Clyde as its main construction centre – irrespective of independence. Vice Admiral Mathews points out that the business agreement (TOBA) between the MoD and BAE was designed to create “a sustainable shipbuilding capacity in the UK to build type 26 frigates…the purpose was to rationalise the business. We wanted BAE Systems to be a high performance yard when we got to Type 26. We wanted them to have reduced their overhead. The deal is predicated on them coming down to the equivalent overhead of one complex warship-building yard. It is for them to decide how they achieve that, whether it is with two yards building in Portsmouth and on the Clyde, or one yard. That is their decision.” And now we know – it is one yard – on the Clyde.

Then the Vice Admiral rather gives the game away when he says it is for the company – BAE – to say where frigates will be built. The government has to approve it but since BAE will have reformed its entire defence business model around the Clyde – at the government’s behest – there would be uproar if the UK said No Thanks. Where else could they be built with Portsmouth facing construction closure?

And of course, never far away is the commercial reality.

Mathews: “We have to decide how we get the best place in terms of best value for enterprise between the carrier (the current orders) and the Type 26 programme.”

Davidson: “Yes, but the best deal could then result in the ships actually being built on the Clyde and potentially outside the United Kingdom.”

Mathews: “I think that is absolutely the case. It depends on the outcome of the referendum and the timing of the Type 26 order.”

Davidson: “Let me be clear. Are you saying – and this is new – that it might very well be the case that if the order is placed and Scotland becomes separate, the order would continue in the Clyde for the entire run of 13 Type 26s?”

Mathews: ‘ What I am saying is that that is one of the options open to us…”

Without making any commitment either way the men from the ministry totally failed to provide the committee and its dogged chairman with the headline they wanted, although that didn’t stop them. They simply got others to deliver the No Contracts quotes.

But I think this evidence is revealing, first because it shows there is a complex web of interests and billion-pound contracts here which have to take account of the privatisation of defence procurement so the MoD – and therefore the politicians – don’t actually have total control at all.  If BAE say the work must be done on the Clyde, it will be done on the Clyde. It will be for the political class to sort out any security issues, which I think will evaporate under the heat of financial necessity.

After all, how would the new Scottish Government deal with it? Offer the MoD and BAE a cordon sanitaire around the physical base and relinquish all rights to the intellectual property in the design and technology. It’s not as if we’re South Korea or Singapore. Even after a Yes, we will still be Scots, family and neighbours, sharing so much with the rUK and the Clyde workers are already doing the job any way. (They will of course still be foreigners to Davidson and Margaret Curran. Maybe they’ll go to the yard and tell them that.)

Here’s the other thing. We will have our own defence needs and it could be that the Clyde yards will be busy building Scotland’s own new fleet by the time the MoD gets round to placing that frigate order. My advice is to get in quick, lads before it’s too late.

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0 thoughts on “Davidson’s Choice: State or People

  1. The man is desperate to create a situation that if he loses his job, then he would ‘wish’ his constituents to lose theirs also. The man is ‘sans pareil’ and consumed with disdain for his own country.

  2. What impact do you think Serco’s bidding to take over MOD buying could have on this if they are successful?

  3. Loved the last paragraph – true irony!
    Davidson? He’s just a tube who’ll be signing on soon.

  4. Davidson really doesn’t care about the workers all he is focused on is his nose in the trough and ensuring it stays there. He must be seeing his Lordship vanishing over the hills and is now so desperate that may have to come back to Scotland and pay his own electric bill that he is resorting to these tactics. Unfortunately it seems Carmichael is cut from the same self loathing cloth,.
    My concern is that Scottish yards may not have the size of workforce required to deal with not only the demands of the royal navy but also the Scottish navy which has to be Scotland’s priority.

  5. Many people want to portray Scotland as having no defence needs post-independence. You hit the nail on the head when you mention that Scotland will need its own navy. That may not be right away, but it will need to build vessels. Notionally, a starting point for a Scots navy will be the ~8-9% (population-based) share of the RN that could form part of a settlement. This could be built upon over time, but crucially, money could be freed up to long-term develop a conventional navy by turning our backs on the Successor Trident project and the abhorrent cost of these abhorrent weapons and their abhorrent launch platforms.
    Scotland could build and operate complex warships of the Type 26 / 45 variety as well as have a more cost-effective fleet of smaller OPVs – something the RN seem only to be waking up to if today’s announcement is anything to go by.
    The Scotstoun yard has already built OPV-type vessels for export customers (Malaysia, Brunei, etc), albeit the Brunei deal collapsed and the vessels spent years moth-balled in Barrow-in-Furness. The vessels they built for export were far more cost-effective, smaller in size, with smaller crew numbers but could be armed to the teeth if need be – some wired for nasty things like Exocet.
    So Scotland doesn’t remain a member of the nuke club, and may have no intention of applying. Good, I say!
    The idea that a firm like BAE used anything other than commercial reasoning to make this latest decision is ludicrous. It was always obvious that Portsmouth didn’t have the capacity (and possibly the capability) offered by two yards on the Clyde operating in tandem, effectively as a single yard.
    I can’t see how BAE will care where the rUK MoD get ships built if a Yes vote is achieved. Their UK shipbuilding interests are dwarfed by their US and aerospace interests and the company’s strategy is to market as a systems integrator, not a builder of defence platforms, meaning the Clyde yards’ days may be numbered anyway. The Clyde yards have a finite lifespan anyway, as purely naval shipbuilding is never going to provide the volume of work needed to keep these two yards going and allow them to be efficient enough to attract commercial work. They will close. They can’t compete with Asian yards on price and efficiency and the volume of work isn’t there for them to achieve the activity levels necessary to be able to do so.

  6. This is my view as well Derek. If it is based on the business case then BAE will not take the work away from the Clyde and give it to Portsmouth, especially after Hammond today saying the subsidy gravy train is being reduced. To take the jobs back to Portsmouth would involve loss making with no subsidy as a substitute. The UK government simply can’t afford the luxury of ship building in England.

  7. Dan, I think you have it bang to rights there. Of course the new Scottish government is going to be ordering new ships, we’ve got the MOD over a barrel. They’ll be so annoyed that they’ll order twice as many just spite us and stop Alex Salmond from getting his new ships.

  8. Whilst the BBC tried hard all day push the decision as a political one, whereby the contract for the frigates would be removed from the Clyde shipyards should we have the audacity to vote for independence next year, there was sane voice in the BBC who told it like it is. Nick Robinson on the Daily Politics at lunchtime stated the decision had been made 3 years ago, before the SNP had a majority in Holyrood and thus a mandate to hold a referendum. However, the view put forward first by Norman Smith, Westminster political correspondent, continued with every other reporter except Nick.

    I have to say that I was astounded when Ruth Davidson attacked Brian Taylor for suggesting such a thing. I didn’t think she had it in her. It was the first time I heard her speak sense.

  9. Mr Davidson has made his choice. Party and state before people.

    Despite the sad news today on the loss of jobs your prediction holds water Derek. The good money is on the continued use of the Govan facility by Westminster for further contracts. Mr Davidson however nailed his colours firmly to the mast by using his constituents in a game of constitutional chicken. He knew damn fine what he was about and simply didn’t care. The sooner we are done with him and his like the cleaner the air quality will be in Glasgow.

  10. The decision by BAE to keep the Clyde yards open and Portsmouth let go was mentioned in the Sunday Times business section, can’t remember, but it must be at least a year ago.
    I can remember telling friends, who work not far from the main gate in Yoker. Because they get a bit of work from the guys.

  11. That would be Scotstoun, in fact, not Yoker. I’m gettin auld and frail. Carry on carrier.

  12. Laughed out loud at the last paragraph!
    Labour and Project Fear beginning to fall apart at the seams. Charlie Gray also supporting indendence. The trickle will eventually grow……

  13. I remain astonished that a Scottish politician would campaign for Scottish jobs to be removed from Scotland in the event of independence.

    I just can’t get my head around it.

    What have the Labour party become?

    My Grandfather was a staunch Labour voter his entire life; I can only imagine his horror at the party Labour have become.

  14. Sic a Parcel o’ Rogues in a Nation ….

  15. Davidson’s behaviour an open goal for any BBC journo worth his salt eh Derek?…..I look forward to them grilling him at every opportunity on this over the coming days…..we’ll see!

  16. A ship is basically a box which floats and moves. A warship floats, moves, detects threats, defends itself and attacks or intimidates enemies. The floating box represents the very smallest part of the building cost. The expensive bits are all the bits of equipment to perform it’s other functions. The engines, sensors, radar, missiles, etc, etc are sourced from across the UK and even the world. The complexity of designing and combining hull, prime movers and defensive/offensive armaments is immense. The expertise to perform these tasks is very specialised and is centred on the Clyde.
    BAE is a multinational arms manufacturer and is the only company in these islands capable of delivering sophisticated weapons such as the T26 Frigates. They have decided what is the the companies best interest and the UK government has no choice but to agree and allow its warships to be built wherever BAE want.

  17. I have a genuine difficulty in understanding who Mr Davidson is loyal to. It seems that standing up for shipbuilding on the Clyde, many of whom are his own constituents, is simply fodder for his hatred of the SNP, or Scottish Independence, or Scots generally.

    One is left with the conclusion that MrDavidson is merely interested in what is best for Mr Davidson.

  18. All of this poison comes from the septic heads of the Davidson clan who stand to loose any status they thought they had come independence. Maybe more importan in the case of the porcine Davidson his remunerations including expenses are approaching the £200,000 mark. Not bad for a torn faced ex cooncilor who will struggle even to get a job as a greeter in B&Q after independence.
    A comment over on the WOS site has made an excellent point.


    Whit’s with all the pretentiousness by Her Britannic Majesty’s Royal Navy – “we can’t have a warship made by Johnny Foreigner.”

    If I have this correct the army can have handguns made in Belgium, the US, Germany or Austria (Brownings, Sauers or Glocks), rifles made in Canada, the US or Germany (Colt Canada, LMT or Heckler and Koch who also supply most if not all UK police armed response units). To name but a few of the essential equipment they buy from foreign countries.

    The RAF are busy rolling out their super-duper new main strike fighter the Typhoon or to give it the full name Eurofighter Typhoon, who have a parent company for the joint agreement between French/Dutch based EADS, Italian based Alenia Aermacchi plus BAE called, wait for it, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug Gmbh. Bet they keep that pretty quiet on Battle of Britain day!

    So the sodjers go into wars equipped by the Americans, Canadians, Belgians, Austrians and Germans, the flyboys go into them piloting their Dutch/French/German/Italian/British aircraft but the RN have to sail on British only warships?

    (Though bear in mind when the Navy do turn up they’ll only be able to use British made torpedoes available on some submarines and guns on the frigates as we wouldn’t want them to use their beastly American made Tomahawk or Harpoon missiles, French/Italian Aster missiles or rely on their German/Swiss made Oerlikon guns to prevent missile attacks on their lovely British-built boats!)

    What a load of hypocritical guff is being spouted by the Unionists on this. Mark my words the RN will buy a foreign built warship within the next decade or two, whether Scotland votes yes next year or not. Pan-European co-operation is the way defence is going – that’s when it’s not a case of “off to North America with a shopping list”!

  19. Hen Broon, you’re bang on the money.
    The MoD are already buying double-hulled fleet tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as part of what was the Military Afloat and Reach Sustainability (MARS) procurement from a consortium that is having them built in Korea. It’s already happening as you rightly point out and since money talks, it will continue to happen, irrespective of the flag-waving jingoism such decisions provokes.

  20. At least we have one 100% certainty from all this – in the event of a “Yes” vote Ian Davidson will be actively campaigning to have BAE systems on the Clyde shut down and his constituents placed on the dole.

  21. Ian Davidson is not afraid of losing his job as a Westminster MP after independence. He knows he can go back to his old job of being one (or maybe both) of the Thompson Twins in the Tin Tin stories.

  22. Davidson and his ilk have always seen the Clyde shipyards as a means to an end.
    Producing orders out of a hat in order to maintain their hegemony in the West of Scotland and now the threat to remove work should we fail to keep him in the life to which he has become accustomed,is how they control the restless natives.
    I hope people waken up to the fact that this particular politician,although not alone in that respect,is manipulating them for self interest.
    I have a feeling that his latest outburst may well have convinced a lot of people to ditch the UK political system which allows him and others to continue to operate against Scotland’s best interest.
    Great article Derek.

  23. After Independance, this wee piggie will be looking for another trough to dip his trotters into!!
    Bosses, DO NOT GIVE HIM ONE!
    Workers, if the bosses are foolish enough to employ him (except as a bog cleaner …provided he brings his own toothbrush!) WALK OUT!!

  24. […] So it in fact simply ISN’T true that Scottish independence would legally result in the Type 26 contract being put out to international tender. The rUK could (and very likely would) seek a derogation from civilian procurement rules so that it could award the contract to BAE – not out of love for an independent Scotland, but because it made military, political and economic sense to do so. […]

  25. […] So it in fact simply ISN’T true that Scottish independence would legally result in the Type 26 contract being put out to international tender. The rUK could (and very likely would) seek a derogation from civilian procurement rules so that it could award the contract to BAE – not out of love for an independent Scotland, but because it made military, political and economic sense to do so. […]

  26. Hearing and seeing the general lack of response from the media when Davidson said that, I would be really interested in finding out if the reporters and interviewers see themselves as being part of the country where they live, or do they just happen to live in this part of the country.
    There seemed to be a disinterested, matter of fact approach.
    I raised this in the comments section of the Glasgow Herald a few weeks ago,asking, as editors and reporters would want to see themselves in a democratic society and having all the advantages of that, working as part of that society, shouldn’t they ensure that they try to give an accurate picture of what the news is, and what it is about. Accurate information is a fundamental part of a democracy.
    The whole bit of my post on this was edited out, but the rest was left in.
    Any journalists or TV reporters reading, do you have an answer?

  27. In World War 1 the British were still trading with Germany. They were buying the khaki dye for British uniforms from them. Insane but true.

  28. What the historically ignorant Davidson overlooks is that, irrespective of Scotland becoming Independent again, it WILL STILL BE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM! The Union of the Crowns was in 1603 and the Referendum concerns dissolving the Union of the Parliaments, which was in 1707. There is no intention to try and dissolve the crown union.

  29. You seem particularly agitated when reality intrudes into the indyref debate.

    The most unedifying part of this whole tragedy is that in the face of a possible total wipe-out of Scottish shipbuilding the SNP ministers involved think it acceptable to continue with their myths, obfuscation and downright lies.

    For them to suggest that there is not a real possibility of the UK continuing with their policy of having warships built within the UK is not only being dishonest with the workers on the Clyde, it is treating the rest us as if we came up said river in a banana boat.

    (In a completely non-racist way, obv…)

  30. Extraordinary debate really, seen from outside Scotland and the UK. Countries all over the world order their naval vessels from the people who are best at building them, though admittedly not normally from shipyards in countries they don’t get along with. If the UK no longer has its own building capacity and needs to order from shipyards in an independent Scotland, there is no reason that won’t happen – except if they can get the same quality but more cheaply somewhere else!

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