Scotland’s shipbuilding workload is “extremely encouraging” but requires certainty for investments to be made, MPs have been warned.

The Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster heard evidence from experts on Monday, June 13 as part of its military shipbuilding inquiry.

The UK Government last year revised its shipbuilding strategy to allow the possibility of more open international competition.

This would mean not all Royal Navy warships are designed and built solely in the UK, which unions say could undermine the confidence the industry requires for investment.

Ian Waddell, general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), told the committee that shipbuilding is an “extremely long-term business” in terms of going from design to service.

Mr Waddell said the industry – particularly in the UK – has traditionally experienced “peaks and troughs” as a result, and warned the issue could arise again if work is not distributed correctly.

He voiced his frustration in seeking a solution to avoid this happening, likening the situation to a jigsaw that can be pieced together.

“The missing link is to take that pipeline of work and turn that into a drumbeat of work for UK yards, and that all rests on the Government’s procurement policy,” he said.

“If there was a very clear signal to BAE Systems on the Clyde, and Babcock at Rosyth, that they could be guaranteed with a reasonable degree of certainty a drumbeat stretching out for the next few decades, you would see an enormous amount of investment in skills and facilities and technology in those yards,” he said.

“It’s a really simple equation: if businesses are faced with uncertainty, then they don’t invest; if they’re faced with certainty, they can guarantee a reasonable level of return on their investment, they’ll put the investment in.”

Kevin Craven, chief executive of the ADS Group, said: “Of course, all governments have huge challenges in terms of current priorities versus long-term strategic priorities.

“So it is a challenge. But there are things that can be done in terms of further indications of solidity and certainty to that pipeline.

“It’s not like a small component. It’s a very large thing that will tie up large acres of ground for many, many years.

“So having certainty over the number and the timing is very, very useful for all industrial players.”

Richard Powell, chairman of the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) Maritime Defence and Security Group Council, called the Scottish industry “remarkable”, but said there was “untapped potential”.

The “key to the problem” is in three areas, Mr Powell told the committee.
“The first one is providing the surety to the industry,” he said, pointing out that the National Shipbuilding Strategy talks about potential and directions of travel.

He said the second theme is collaboration, followed by bringing skills “into play”.

“If you have any of those missing, it’s not going to work,” Mr Powell said.