Say you needed a Navy…

The tale of broken promises to the Clyde Shipyards is a long and inglorious one. Shameful might be more accurate.

12 ‘Global Combat Frigates’ – Royal Navy Frigates have been well regarded.

So, a more than decent contract that seemingly the MoD can’t fulfill. Budgets are tight, things can overrun and there’s always a new crisis or new commitment for the British Military. But, there’s a long planning process a lead in time and commitment to the yards that build the Navy. 

Order books need to be committed for years down the line, now it’s not just a matter of today’s money, a programme of building a class of vessel runs for a number of years and there’s updates and changes as the off the plan vessel undergoes sea trials and acceptance trials for both the seaworthiness and its naval tasks.

Technology changes and times change, but, in very simple terms both people and goods move by sea and will continue to do so. As an Island, the U.K. Government has to think in terms of both its NATO commitments but also for the Overseas Territories. 

The Royal Navy isn’t a premier fleet in world terms, but has capability and number that many others in Europe do not. The commitment to NATO removes the need for a Home Fleet as The Channel, North Sea, Irish Sea and North Atlantic approaches are covered in NATO’s shared arrangements.

So, the Partnership arrangement of patrols, common working and command structures mean the UK hasn’t a home threat. It can and will commit to the Greenland, Iceland and UK Gap where a Russian Northern Fleet can and will test resolve and the Royal Navy can meet the threat with its resources and obviously NATO support.

In the event of any Scottish Independence, we are assured that there would be NATO membership and there’s talk of a Naval branch of a Scottish self defence force getting a share of the resource of the Royal Navy.

But, in my eyes, we need to think of more than just saying well a few vessels on fishery duty or a few patrols of the oil rigs and making a small contribution to UN joint patrols or missions like other ‘small’ nations do.

Look at the length of our coastline. Think of the proportion of it in UK terms. Think North Sea, North Atlantic, North Channel and Irish Sea and also think of our islands and large sea firths and sea lochs. 

Our trade may come via English ports, our focus on our stability and security might be to look at England or the Irish Republic and work in partnership and as a contributor to NATO, which brings us back to that Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap and those pesky Russians. On independence, that would be a key security concern, as would the old rigs as would our island communities. 

Trade might change and see more goods shipped directly to Scotland. Relations might change or differ and so might Scotland’s circumstances. 

The UK  Once used Scapa Flow and Rosyth as safe bases for its Hone or Grand Fleets as control of the North Sea and The Channel were seen as important against the imperial German Navy. We may need to think differently from the moment and look at the importance of The Channel and Irish Sea to our interests and if our land border to England were affected, what could Scotland do? 

Politics isn’t played fairly. The loss of jobs and capability in the Clyde Shipyards has economic and social effects, but so too does losing a resource to build ships to defend our interests and protect our standing.

A brexit England and Wales might tariff unfairly EU goods bound for Scotland through its territory or use measures to discourage direct routes for trade vessels to Scotland.

Do we sit and hope that everyone plays fair? Or do we say well, if the worst happens our Navy could protect our interests and intervene if Ships bound for Scotland were harassed. 

We know the lessons of gunboat diplomacy, sometimes having ability to back up words is useful and if the Clyde Shipyards can design and build more than decent military ships, then go for it.


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