Yesterday, BAE Systems announced that it would cease shipbuilding at Portsmouth, bringing to an end over 500-years of tradition that began with the Tudors and the Sweepstake in 1497 (Mary Rose was 1509, if you were wondering). The closure has all the signs of a squalid backroom deal predicated on Scottish politics, wherein the good men and women of Portsmouth can go hang.
Furthermore, 3 new OPVs will be built on the Clyde, not at Portsmouth – orders that would have secured the future on the English yard. The complicity of BAE and the Tory government in this shady deal is so obvious that a child can see it. Yet I doubt the desperate political gambit will have any effect whatsoever on Scottish voters. The reasons that the Scots will chose or reject independence are manifold. They are not a credulous people. They are unlikely to be swayed either way by the promise of a naval orderbook.
Furthermore, orders for the Type 26 frigate were pushed back and no definite number specified.This is a woeful sop to the bean-counters at HM Treasury. British defence policy is now, clearly, determined without any regard to national security. We should steel ourselves for an announcement in 2014 for a mere handful of frigates. At Scottish yards? Why not South Korea? The settlement of RFA tanker contracts on a South Korean yard was a stab-in-the-back that will do doubt be repeated now that precedent has been set.
So where do we go from here? Nowhere. The decision has been made and shipbuilding at Portsmouth is no more. Clocks cannot be wound back. The backroom deals have sealed the fate of British shipbuilding, the Royal Navy, national defence, and jobs (and backhanders) for the City boys. Swan Hunter has gone. Sammy White’s has gone. Scott’s has gone. Chatham has gone. Hawthorn Leslie has gone. Now Portsmouth.