The Year of the Navy: 2017 was an exercise in public relations, trying to conceal the chronic mismanagement and confusion at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Kenneth Gibson MSP has said.
The idea was originally promoted by the Tories as the start of a ‘new era of maritime power’ as new vessels joined the service. Instead it descended into an embarrassing list of failures and broken promises, highlighting real concerns in the Navy about future investment and procurement.
The Tories betrayed the Clyde shipyards, breaking their pre-independence referendum pledge to build 13 Type 26 frigates, then latterly 8 and only signing a contract for 3. That was compounded by the announcement that the new Type 31 class of vessel could be built elsewhere: more broken promises from the Tories. In the summer, reports of a massive £30,000 million black hole in the procurement budget were all but admitted by the MoD, as a new review was announced to find ‘adjustments’ to the last defence cuts programme.
As the UK Tory Government - backed by Labour - confirmed Trident renewal was untouchable, the spotlight turned to other naval capabilities being cut, with attention turning to the Royal Marines, based partly at RM Condor in Angus. The proposed axing of HMS Albion and Bulwark would represent a massive blow to Marine capability and leave them unable to undertake operations such as the retaking of the Falklaned Islands in 1982.
Kenneth Gibson said:
“The chronic mismanagement at the heart of the MoD has shown this PR spin to be an exercise of Tory smoke and mirrors and largely meaningless for the hard-working, dedicated and talented men & women serving in the Royal Navy.
“My father and grandfather served in the Navy and my mother was a Wren, so it is hard seeing such a crucial service being so run down whilst no expense is spared on Trident renewal.
“So low is morale that former First Sea Lord Admiral Zambellas said the choices for the upcoming Tory defence review for his successor were like ‘a choice between having his left arm cut off or his right arm cut off.’’
“We risk diminishing the Royal Marines; it means the workers on the Clyde worry for their long term future as the MoD refuses to commit to the Type 26s they were promised, and gives much needed work on the Type 31 to yards elsewhere; and still we are unable to increase the size of the surface escort fleet, even at a time of increased threat in the North Atlantic so it was no surprise to see recently that - for the first time in living memory - the Royal Navy had no escort ships deployed at all.
“New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson MP must get his department back under control and make 2018 the year the Navy gets back on course for which he will have SNP support. He must sign the contract for all Type 26’s, and give the workers on the Clyde long term security. He must bring the contracts for the new class of Fleet Solid Support ships to the Clyde and Rosyth and guarantee the future of HMS Albion and Bulwark, and the base at RM Condor in Arbroath.
“Scotland is a nation at the edge of the North Atlantic with no major surface vessels based in our waters. We must increase the size of the escort fleet from this historic low and base the new City-Class Type 26s at Faslane, replacing the unaffordable, unusable, immoral and redundant Trident nuclear weapons.”