MORE than 600 Navy jobs will be lost from Devonport when the base’s nuclear submarines move to Scotland.
The grim revelation is set to fuel calls for the next generation of warships to be based in Plymouth to “backfill” the personnel gap left by the subs’ departure.
The Ministry of Defence says about 630 military personnel are due to transfer to Faslane when the five Trafalgar-class hunter-killers relocate.
It was unable to say what impact the change would have on civilian staff, but it was not expected to “lead to any significant changes” in the number at Devonport.
The decision to make Faslane the dedicated home for the UK’s entire submarine fleet was taken under the last Labour Government and so has been known for some years.
But it is the first time the impact on manpower has been revealed.
Plymouth has already suffered from redundancies and the scrapping of warships as part of the biggest round of defence cuts since the end of the Cold War.
The latest news will lend added urgency to a campaign to bring the hi-tech Type 26 Global Combat Ship to Devonport.
Due to enter service after 2020, they will replace the Type 23 frigates, seven of which continue to be based in Plymouth after ministers lifted the threat of a move to Portsmouth last year.
Three of Devonport’s five Trafalgar class subs – Trenchant, Talent and Triumph, are to move to Scotland by 2017, where they will join the nuclear-armed Vanguard fleet and new Astute boats as they enter service. The other two, Tireless and Torbay, will be decommissioned.
That not only has implications for the dockyard’s workload and the knock-on effect for jobs, but also the economic benefit generated by naval personnel and their families.
Base-porting on the Clyde has become central to the high-profile debate on Scottish independence.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is demanding the submarine-based nuclear deterrent is removed in the event of a vote to go it alone in 2014.
But those campaigning against separation have stressed the importance of defence jobs to the Scottish economy, and the employment that will be created by moving the submarines to Faslane.
Plymouth has been proposed as an alternative location for the four Vanguard-class vessels, being the UK’s only base with the specialist facilities and skilled workforce needed to maintain the current and future submarine fleet.
The impact on jobs of moving Devonport’s hunter-killer submarines to Faslane emerged in response to a parliamentary question.
Responding Defence Minister Mark Francois said the number of jobs at Faslane were due to increase from the current figure of 6,700 to around 8,200 by 2022.
He said: “This change is primarily due to an increase of around 1,500 in the number of Royal Navy jobs at the site, of which around 630 will transfer from HMNB Devonport due to the move of the base-port for the Trafalgar Class submarines to HMNB Clyde.”
Mr Francois added: “There are no plans to transfer any Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilian jobs from HMNB Devonport.
“It is not possible to determine the impact on civilian jobs at HMNB Devonport caused solely by the move of the base-port for the Trafalgar Class submarines.
“It is anticipated, however, that it will not lead to any significant changes in either HMNB Devonport civilian numbers, or in the total number of civilians employed by the MoD.”
Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, Alison Seabeck, said: “We have known about the shift in the submarines for some years, and that was always going to involve Royal Navy personnel moving away from Plymouth and up to the Clyde.
“That’s not something that hasn’t been factored into discussions around the naval base.”
But she added: “It will leave a gap in terms of the Royal Naval personnel that are moving.
“We need to be lobbying hard that we have the Type 26s base-ported in Plymouth to backfill some of those expected losses.”
Pointing out it was a decision made by the previous Labour administration, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Oliver Colvile, said: “There should be no surprise in this.”
But he argued any preparations for moving the submarines should be put on hold until the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence.
“I don’t think any more funding should be spent until such time as we know they are going to be part of the Union,” Mr Colvile added.
“If it was the case the SNP win the referendum then I am afraid we do not want to waste money.”
PLYMOUTH LEADERS VOW TO FIGHT FOR WARSHIPS
THE loss of more than 600 Naval jobs from Devonport will drain millions of pounds from Plymouth’s economy, city leaders have warned.
Top business figures have vowed to “redouble” efforts to bring the next generation of warships to the city in the wake of the news.
It is hoped that securing the Type 26 frigates, due to take to the seas in around 2020, will help plug the gap left by 630 sailors and other military personnel who will move to Scotland with Devonport’s Trafalgar-class hunter-killers by 2016.
But Plymouth Chamber of Commerce chief executive David Parlby said the sweeping job losses could dent Plymouth’s economy by more than £2million a year.
“It is very bad news,” Mr Parlby said. “At a stroke it undermines all the very good work that has been done in terms of bringing jobs into Plymouth.
“The fact that they [Royal Navy personnel] are in employment means they spend money here in the local economy on goods and services.
“This is a very surprising and dismaying announcement and it would probably have an impact of at least £2million per year.”
Economists, councillors and other leading business figures echoed Mr Parlby’s concerns.
Lesley Shorrocks, chair of the city’s Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Although we have known this move was to happen for some time it’s always disappointing when the reality of the numbers leaving Plymouth hits home.
“The military personnel obviously have families and many may well be leaving.
“This is bound to affect local businesses in Devonport and areas around, which is a great shame and most regrettable.
“It is a tough time for small businesses so this is most unwelcome news indeed.”
Attentions now turn to a campaign to bring the hi-tech Type 26 Global Combat Ship to Devonport Naval Base when it is launched.
Tim Jones, chairman of both the Devon and Cornwall Business Council and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “There will be some economic impact but it means we will redouble our efforts to argue for the Type 26s.”
Deputy leader of Plymouth City Council Councillor Peter Smith said: “This is why we have been lobbying the government for the Type 26 frigates to be base-ported in Plymouth.
“We have known that these job losses were on the cards for several years; it’s all tied in with the Strategic Defence and Security Review and the submarines moving to Faslane.”
Cllr Smith added: “Of course, the situation could change dramatically if Scotland were to gain independence.”
Dr Steven Brand, head of economics and regional development at Plymouth University, called on the powers-that-be to make sure a “Plan B” was in place.
He has previously raised concerns about the Royal Navy moving out of Plymouth altogether.
“While the Naval base is there, it’s there,” Dr Brand said.
“But the people making these decisions have got to ensure if it’s scaled down that there is a Plan B and that it is managed in a sensible way.”
Source – This is Plymouth