Princess Anne will visit Glasgow tomorrow to ceremonially cut the first steel on the production of Britain’s largest warships to date.
Work will begin immediately on the Clyde, the sites having previously built the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers, among others. The flagship 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will be, upon completion, the most powerful combat vessels ever built in the UK.
However, there have been growing fears over the past week that the project is close to running aground. A leaked BVT memo earmarked plants at Scotstoun and Govan for possible closure in order to ease Ministry of Defence cost estimates, with the project already ₤1bn over budget.
Under the plans, BVT would move production to a single site model. Given that defence chiefs are committed to the city as Britain’s naval home, and with the majority of BVT’s executives being based in the region, the yard at Portsmouth looks increasingly likely to get the nod.
While the vessels are due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, respectively, work at the Clyde shipyards will end in 2012, leaving a considerable Scottish workforce uncertain as to its long-term role in the project.
With the Scottish Government calling for assurances as to BVT’s continued investment in the Clyde yards, a spokesperson for the firm said: “BVT Surface Fleet has a solid order book for the next seven to eight years and is in the strongest position the shipbuilding industry in the UK has seen for a generation.”
“As part of its prudent long-term planning, it considers a broad range of options, including worse case scenario planning. However, it is also planning for and confident in an extremely positive outlook.”