Tuesday, 03 November 2015 12:58

Your MP's Response To Jackie Baillie

Jackie Baillie’s overreaction is sadly predictable but underneath all of the bluster however, I'm delighted to see she confirms my figure that there are 6,800 jobs at HMNB Clyde, rather than continuing to defend the ludicrous claim she made in the Scottish Parliament recently that "There are 11,300 people employed at Faslane

Let’s make the very clear distinction.  6,800 people do not work on Trident at Faslane as she would appear to imply

Trident is only one function of HMNB Clyde.  The Government were asked only in July last year to specify the cost of retaining and basing Trident at Faslane and they could not, Philip Dunne specifically stated “The cost of retaining the nuclear deterrent at Faslane and Coulport cannot be separately identified from expenditure incurred for multiple activities at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde”.  So Ms Baillie, if the MOD cannot ascertain who does what at Faslane, how has she worked it out?  She hasn’t, because she can’t.

But this story has in the past few days only deepened.  We now see potentially dangerous cost-cutting measures proposed by the MoD, who want to extend the time period that nuclear powered submarines can be berthed at Faslane without any electrical power, from the current 20 minutes to up to three hours, during which time, the nuclear reactors on board the submarines could heat up, raising very serious safety concerns.  Only last year, it was reported there have been more than 260 nuclear safety incidents at Faslane and Coulport.  Three quarters were human error.

Let’s be absolutely clear, whatever Scotland's constitutional future is, the future of HMNB Clyde is guaranteed; either as the home of the UK submarine fleet or as a conventional naval base and joint-forces HQ; and I challenge Ms. Baillie to point to a single reference to where I have EVER suggested closing the base.

I think it is fair to say that whether one likes what Faslane is currently being used for or not, having this base on our doorstep should be a massive economic boost to this town. Sadly despite the £billions invested in nuclear weapons, the community forced to host these weapons has seen precious little benefit.  And Ms Baillie should be aware that West Dunbartonshire has the highest rate of benefit claims in Scotland and is the sixth highest of ILO unemployment. 

But don’t take my word for it, the UK government’s official figures are absolutely clear; only 520 jobs at Faslane are directly linked to Trident and of the civilian jobs at Faslane, of MOD civilians, only 423 live in Argyll & Bute and only 457 live in West Dunbartonshire.

The remainder are contractors who can be seen being brought in daily on a fleet of coaches. These contractors do not live in the town, nor do they have families in the town and therefore they do not spend their salaries in the town. Likewise many of the service personnel, who live on the base when they have to but return to their families domiciled in other parts of the UK.

Employment activity like this does not bring the economic "Klondyke" that Ms. Baillie would have us believe currently exists in Helensburgh. Indeed, next time she visits all she has to do is walk around the town and count the number of vacant premises and empty shops available. Should she require more evidence, then I advise her to look at the Census figures from 1991, 2001 and 2011, which show a steady population decline in Helensburgh.

If having Faslane on our doorstep as currently constituted, how does she explain the economic decline and population loss?

Last week I challenged the MoD to tell me how much of the £500,000,000,000 investment they announced for Faslane in the summer would be spent upgrading the infrastructure outside of the perimeter fence. They could not tell me. I will continue to press the MoD on such questions because unlike some, I don’t think our community is accruing anything like the economic benefits we should from having the base on our doorstep.

I will continue to vociferously oppose nuclear weapons and the shameful waste of money renewing Trident. I will continue to argue that Faslane become a conventional naval base but in the meantime,  I will not shirk from demanding that while the government pumps billions into the base that this community gets its share of the benefits and I would argue that simply being the cheerleader-in-chief for the MoD for the past 17 years hasn’t really worked for Helensburgh.

Brendan O’Hara MP
Argyll & Bute