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FactCheck: Will SNP 'bomb' Trident base?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 April 2007

Labour's Scottish Parliamentary candidate Jackie Baillie warns of economic crisis if Faslane is closed.

The claim

"11,000 jobs [will be] lost from the local economy when the SNP scrap Faslane and Coulport."
Election leaflet for Jackie Baillie, Labour's Scottish Parliamentary candidate for the Dumbarton constituency.

The background

Home to the Trident weapons system, Faslane and neighbouring Coulport are part of HM Naval Base Clyde, set in the Dumbarton constituency of the Scottish Parliament.

Before the Trident vote on 14 March, the area's MSP Jackie Baillie said failure to renew would cost 11,000 local jobs.

Now campaigning for re-election, she says the posts still aren't safe, claiming the same number of posts will be scrapped if voters side with the Scottish National Party, who she says will scrap the whole base.

Is her claim justified? Is it the whole story?

The analysis

For starters, the numbers seem contradictory. If it takes 11,000 workers to serve Trident, surely you would expect operating the entire base to require more staff? The Royal Navy says it has 6,500 workers there, with an extra 3,000 local jobs resulting from the base.

That's short of Ms Baillie's stats, which are taken from a 2003 economic report by development agency Scottish Enterprise.

But before we examine this in detail, we need to step back and look at the SNP's manifesto promise.

It does say "it's time" to nuke the nukes, but does not pledge to bomb the base. The party promises to send Trident across newly-sovereign Scottish borders in the case of a 'yes' vote in an independence referendum, but says it would retain the base for a 'conventional' navy, with staff redeployed using money which would otherwise be used to pay for the system.

Notwithstanding the details in the manifesto, Labour says the SNP pledges would inevitably lead to sweeping job cuts.

But to get to this stage, Scots would have to first elect an SNP majority before opting to sever the Union - making Labour's hypothesis at least two votes away.

Back to the numbers, the five year old report says 10,598 jobs in defence and local economies are sustained by naval sites on the Clyde, some of which are outside the Dumbarton constituency. Fewer than 6,500 of these workers - including those in jobs created by the spending of the base and its staff - live within this ward, meaning losses would not be exclusively concentrated in this area.

It's worth noting that government figures also contradict Ms Baillie's claims. At a Parliamentary debate on February 21 2005, Geoff Hoon, then Secretary of State for Defence, said 966 Scottish jobs are supported directly and indirectly by Trident.

In fact, the lion's share of Trident jobs - 12,340 - are held in the rest of the UK, far beyond the 'local economy' Ms Baillie hopes to represent.

FactCheck rating: 4

How ratings work

Every time a FactCheck article is published we'll give it a rating from zero to five.

The lower end of the scale indicates that the claim in question largerly checks out, while the upper end of the scale suggests misrepresentation, exaggeration, a massaging of statistics and/or language.

In the unlikely event that we award a 5 out of 5, our factcheckers have concluded that the claim under examination has absolutely no basis in fact.

The verdict

Ms Baillie's claim suggests that an SNP election win would mean 11,000 pink slips in the Dumbarton constituency.

But scrapping what the Royal Navy calls the 'largest single-site employer in Scotland' is not on the nationalists' manifesto and contradicts their promises for redeployment in the event of independence. And let's not forget, that would depend on a 'yes' vote in a referendum.

Analysis shows that even if that did occur, only a fraction of potential losses would affect workers in this area, but technically, if the posts did go, they could only go from their source, slap bang inside the Dumbarton constituency borders.

But with the idea of closure based on hypothesis rather than manifesto commitments and the numbers themselves open to debate, the claim seems less than watertight.

The sources

Royal Navy
Scottish Labour

Your view

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