Spending review: Scottish parties warn over defence cuts

By Peter Wozniak

Cuts to defence projects would have a devastating impact on industry and jobs in Scotland, warns a document backed by all the major Scottish parties.

The publication, launched by the leaders of the SNP and of the Scottish branches of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, calls for key defence projects including the £5 billion construction of two aircraft carriers, to be spared from cutbacks in the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) next month.

It stated: “Many areas of Scotland rely heavily on defence as a core part of their economy and will suffer significantly both economically and socially from any further significant reductions to the defence footprint or cancellations of defence contracts.”

Uncertainty remains over how the defence budget will be impacted specifically, though the effect on Scotland, home to the backbone of many defence industries, including shipbuilding and RAF bases, is likely to be damaging.

The MoD is being asked to find at least 20% savings in its budget as part of the spending review, and the Scottish leaders were keen to point out the deleterious effects this might have on long-term skills in the industries that lie behind defence.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said: “This cross-party submission is of vital importance and sets out a compelling case for safeguarding Scottish jobs and skills.”

The representatives of Scottish unions and government will meet with the defence secretary Liam Fox before the completion of the SDSR next month, though the MoD has only indicated so far that decisions are not finalised, and some cutbacks in Scottish defence industries seem inevitable.

The report concluded with the warning: “Decisions may impact disproportionately on the sustainability of the remaining UK defence facility. They also have the potential to have a devastating effect on local communities, communities which are, in many cases, already suffering from the recession and the resulting increase in unemployment and other adverse economic impacts.”

The move joins a growing chorus of parties and organisations anxious to protect their favoured sectors of public spending, though the clarity they crave will only be confirmed on October 20th, with the full publication of the comprehensive spending review.