Scotland Split Would Risk Jobs, Warns Hammond
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has warned thousands of jobs will be threatened if Scotland decides to break away from the UK.
He told staff at a Glasgow-based defence firm the future of the business and their livelihoods would be put at risk by a 'yes' vote in this September's referendum on independence.
Mr Hammond said the defence industry in Scotland employs around 12,600 people and generates sales of more than £1.8bn.
He told workers at Thales, a firm which has supplied every periscope used by the Royal Navy: "The creation of a border between this facility and its largest customer will put at jeopardy the future prosperity of this business, the people who work in it and their families and dependents.
"Clearly the Ministry of Defence in the UK buys much of its capability from its indigenous industrial base.
"That's not for reasons of sentimentality, that's for reasons of strategic control, for reasons of being able to manage the security of facilities and for reasons of resilience in times of conflict.
"If we were to separate, then the future of the defence industry in Scotland that depends on MoD orders will be put at risk."
But one staff member, Daniel McGee, took the Defence Secretary to task over his argument.
He said: "I feel aggrieved that you've come up here and seem to be quite threatening, that our jobs will go."
Mr Hammond said he was positive about the "huge achievements of union" over more than 300 years, but added: "The Scottish people are entitled to honest answers to questions."
He accused Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, of wanting to keep voters in the dark until after the referendum.
But in a speech to trade unionists in Dundee, Mr Salmond issued a guarantee that shipbuilding would continue long-term in Scotland.
He insisted the Royal Navy would continue to buy ships from the Clyde, and further jobs would be secured through diversification.
He also received a round of applause when he repeated his commitment to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland.
The debate over the implications for the defence industry of independence came as millitary commanders also raised their own concerns about the prospect of Scotland going it alone.
The head of the Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said the "very heart" of Britain's maritime defence forces would be damaged.
Sir George insisted the nations that remained in the UK would adapt and cope eventually but he said Scotland would feel a "deeper impact" if it broke away.
Similar concerns were highlighted by a dozen high-ranking military officers in a letter to Mr Salmond this week.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, argued the SNP's proposed ban on nuclear weapons "would be unacceptable for Nato".
An SNP-led government would want to continue membership of the military alliance, which critics say is at odds with its anti-nuclear stance.