Leaving UK 'Risks Defence Industry'

Scotland's defence industry is a success story that would be put at risk by leaving the UK, according to pro-Union campaigners.

Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign, will state the "positive defence case for staying in the UK'' on a visit to to a firm in the east end of Glasgow with Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker. 

Mr Darling said that for thousands of people in places like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and Inverclyde, the UK's defence industry is a major source of jobs and economic security. 

He said: "It's a great success story and has kept generations of families in work for many years. Leaving the UK would put that at risk. 

"As part of the UK we can have the best of both worlds - a strong Scottish Parliament, with the guarantee of more powers, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. We don't need to put that at risk.'' 

Mr Coaker, Labour MP for Gedling in Nottinghamshire, said: "Scotland makes a huge contribution to defence in the UK. I passionately believe that Scotland and the rest of the UK would be less secure and vastly diminished places if we went our separate ways.'' 

He went on: "If Scotland votes to leave the UK then economics, politics and security dictate that there would be serious consequences for continuing current, and placing future, defence contacts with what would then be a foreign country. 

"It would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk in communities across Scotland.'' 

The politicians spoke ahead of a visit to Walker Precision Engineering in the Tollcross area. 

The firm - which produces components for the production of submarines, helicopters and tanks - has a staff of 150 and 80% of their contracts are said to be for defence and aerospace products. 

Their comments came a day after the defence and aerospace trade body, ADS Group, warned of "concerns about the uncertainties and risks associated with the outcome of the Scottish referendum on the global competitiveness of companies across the UK''. 

A statement on the group's website did not specifically refer to a Yes vote, but it did state that "the uncertain outcome and timetable for negotiations on a range of important financial, regulatory and international relationships is a cause of concern for many businesses operating within or trading with the UK''. 

Group chief executive Paul Everitt said: "ADS members in the UK aerospace, defence, security and space industries benefit from the stability, strength and scale of the whole of the UK. 

"September's referendum on the future of Scotland could have a profound impact on these sectors' global competitiveness. 

"ADS believes such economic risks and long-lasting consequences are a legitimate part of the pre-referendum debate. 

"In addition to the debates about monetary and fiscal policy, there is genuine uncertainty about the impact of independence on the UK's - and Scotland's - international influence, export opportunities and inward investment. 

"Companies are concerned about the costs and consequences negotiation and transition arrangements might have on procurement budgets, mature supply chains and highly-skilled workforces.'' 

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Scotland is currently short-changed on our contribution to defence and the adverse consequences of Westminster's policies have been felt in many ways. 

"The latest figure for defence spending in Scotland (2007/08) is £1.4 billion less than our current contribution of £3.3 billion to UK defence and security budgets. 

"With independence, Scottish defence spending will provide security as well as increasing economic benefits and employment on which we currently miss out. 

"As set out in Scotland's Future, an independent Scotland focusing on a strong - non-nuclear - conventional defence footprint with an annual defence budget of £2.5 billion would provide for significant investment in the defence sector and support key Scottish industries including shipbuilding.''