Scottish Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 139

House of COMMONS



Scottish Affairs Committee

The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Defence

Thursday 7 March 2013

Martin McCurley, Jim Conroy and Richie Calder

Evidence heard in Public Questions 2614 - 2696



This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.


Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.


Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.


Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee

on Thursday 7 March 2013

Members present:

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair)

Mike Crockart

Eleanor Laing

Graeme Morrice

Mr Alan Reid

Lindsay Roy


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Martin McCurley, Trade Union Convenor, Unite, Coulport, Jim Conroy, Chair, Shop Stewards Committee, Unite, Faslane, and Richie Calder, Shop Steward, Unite, Faslane, gave evidence.

Q2614 Chair: As you know, this is the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. We have been having investigations into what the impact of separation might be on Scotland. We have been looking at various issues concerned with process, and now we are looking at various areas of the economy, and political areas such as defence. One of the sub-aspects of defence has obviously been the question of Trident. We produced the report "Trident-Days or Decades?", and there is a debate about that this afternoon.

We also want to explore the question of what the consequences of separation might be for jobs and the economy in particular areas. It is in that context that we have asked you to come along and speak to us today about the jobs situation in Faslane and Coulport, and how that might change if Scotland became separate from the United Kingdom and consequential events occurred in relation to the Royal Navy presence.

First of all, could you introduce yourselves and tell us what you do at Faslane or Coulport?

Jim Conroy: I am Jim Conroy. I am chairman of the industrial shop stewards’ committee. I am employed as a mechanical fitter in the Northern Utilities building in Faslane.

Martin McCurley: I am Martin McCurley. I am the chair of the shop stewards’ committee at Coulport. I am employed as a multi-skilled operator and have been there for the last 29 years.

Richie Calder: My name is Richie Calder. I am a Unite shop steward and have been since 2006. I am a plumber in Faslane.

Q2615 Chair: Do you all live in the local area?

Richie Calder: I stay in Helensburgh, Martin is in Dumbarton and Jim is in Renton.

Q2616 Mr Reid: Thank you very much for coming along. Would you start by giving us a brief overview of the work that is carried out at Faslane and Coulport?

Jim Conroy: Faslane is the naval support. We supply services to the submarines and surface ships that come in there-engineering support along the waterside. We also have members who are employed in the accommodation for the naval and military personnel based there, basically cleaning their rooms and supplying them with food and whatever they need at that end.

Richie Calder: I think one of the boasts from that, as well, is that they view it as the biggest hotel in Britain. So you can tell by the numbers what we are talking about surrounding that.

Q2617 Mr Reid: Are a lot of the jobs specialised?

Jim Conroy: A lot of the engineering and support work is specialised.

Q2618 Mr Reid: Can you tell us how many people work at the base in total?

Jim Conroy: I don’t know that number in total.

Mr Reid: Roughly.

Jim Conroy: I can tell you that we, the industrial shop stewards in Unite, represent in excess of 800 Unite members across both sites. That is who we are representing here today.

Q2619 Lindsay Roy: Would it be fair to say that most of these jobs are fairly specialised?

Jim Conroy: I would say that it is probably a 50:50 split.

Martin McCurley: It ranges from hotel catering to engineering, to waste and estates management. At Coulport, we maintain the nuclear submarines and the loading on and offloading of them. I cannot go into too much detail on that. We also have a maintenance side at Coulport. There are approximately 150 Unite employees. There are also two other sections within Coulport, which are ABL and Lockheed Martin, that we do not represent.

Q2620 Chair: We have been given a figure of 6,500 people employed at the base. You are only representing a relatively small number of those. Who represents the others?

Jim Conroy: A lot of the numbers that you have just said are service personnel, who are not members of trades unions. There are another four unions on the Clyde: two industrial and two non-industrial. It is for them to take up through their respective unions whatever process they follow to ensure that they get guarantees or assurances on how it would develop, no matter which way it was. It is to get an informed position for all parties; that is what we have always set out to do, so that our members are quite clear that if you vote for A or B, you know what you are voting for. We have sought out assurances with the different parties on how they see it going forward.

Q2621 Mr Reid: There was a Commons written answer a few years ago giving the number of people who were employed directly on the Trident missiles. It was a surprisingly small number, which allowed those in favour of separation to say that, if Trident was not there, only a few jobs would be lost. Was that number a fair reflection of the number of jobs that would actually be lost if we did not have a nuclear missile at Faslane?

Martin McCurley: What was the number given?

Mr Reid: I think it was in the low hundreds. These were workers who were working directly on servicing the missiles. What I am trying to ask is, if the missiles weren’t there, do you think there would be a lot more jobs in other sectors that would go, as well as the workers directly servicing the missiles?

Jim Conroy: If the nuclear weapons were removed, that is a question for us. We would be looking for assurances from whoever. If the nuclear weapons and those submarines are not port-based in the Clyde any longer, where do they go and what happens to the other submarines? We are seen as the submarine centre of excellence, and all the training and everything else is centred there. Our specialists work in all the services that we provide, shore side. The jobs that you refer to, I believe, are the jobs that were retained. MOD just went through a transfer into a tripartite company: Babcock, Lockheed Martin and Aldermaston. The people in those jobs that you refer to will work for one of these companies now. I don’t know the definitive number on that. If the submarines move-and our concern is for the people whom I represent in my section on the engineering and waterfront side-if the submarines are not there, there is no work for us.

Q2622 Mr Reid: Would it be fair to say that the vast bulk of the work at Faslane and Coulport is related to the submarines, rather than surface vessels?

Jim Conroy: The vast majority of the engineering support is for the submarines.

Q2623 Lindsay Roy: The answer from the Scottish Government and the SNP is pretty clear. What they are saying is that, if there is separation, there would be no submarines in the area because they are nuclear-powered, or they are Trident submarines. Roughly how many people would service that? Do you have any idea?

Jim Conroy: I could not give you a definitive figure.

Q2624 Lindsay Roy: Is it half the work force or is it more than half the work force?

Jim Conroy: I would say it is half the work force. There is about a 50:50 split between engineering support and, if you like, the other shore supply-accommodation and servicing the personnel that live on site.

Q2625 Chair: The response that the UK Government gave to our report, which we have sent out to you, said that if Trident was removed "there would be no question but that the entirety of the submarine enterprise in the Clyde would be relocated". It is on the principle of "one out, all out". If the Trident boats go, then all the boats go. That would only leave the hotel side of things, wouldn’t it? But, of course, the hotel side of things is for the crews of the submarines, isn’t it?

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Martin McCurley: Yes.

Q2626 Chair: They could be more easily transferred over to do something else-as hotel facilities for something else-but the half of the work force on the submarines would essentially be redundant in those circumstances, unless other submarines were provided. Is that right?

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Q2627 Chair: What I am not clear about, and what Alan was picking up, is whether or not the skills of the people working on submarines are transferable over to surface ships. Do you require different specialist training for submarines as compared to frigates? Are they completely different worlds?

Jim Conroy: You are asking us a question that we cannot answer. We don’t know what the specialist skills are for that. We know what the specialist skills are that our members are trained up to carry out.

Martin McCurley: We don’t represent the individuals you are talking about.

Q2628 Chair: Who represents them, then?

Jim Conroy: Surface ships come in and out of Faslane. Minor works go on in those surface ships by the same engineering support, but, whatever level that goes to, I don’t see that it would employ all of the engineering support staff if the submarines were not port-based in the Clyde.

Martin McCurley: If I am getting the line you are trying to go down, at Coulport there are individuals who actually work on the submarines. We don’t represent those workers. Yes, I would presume they would have a specialised skill. I can’t answer if that would be transferable or not to surface ships, because we are not involved with it.

Q2629 Mr Reid: Do you know how many people at the base are nuclear-specific-that is, they are nuclear engineers or their work is related to the fact that it is nuclear submarines as opposed to conventional submarines?

Jim Conroy: In health support, we have health physics monitors working where the reactor is, so they all have to be trained to a level. A lot of our engineering support is working in the same, so we are all trained up to that level, so that we know what we are dealing with. We go through all the health checks. It is quite specific. What we have is all weighed out. The engineering side of it is possibly transferable to surface ships with a bit of retraining. That is what was indicated-that there would be retraining if we went down the route that the SNP would look to take us down. That is what was indicated at our meeting in Glasgow.

Q2630 Mr Reid: But are there a significant number of workers who are nuclear specialists, who, if they lost their jobs, would be more likely to try and find a job somewhere else in the world?

Jim Conroy: Yes. The health physics monitors would certainly want to go. There are other people on that side of Faslane, and certainly Coulport as well, who are specialist nuclear workers. They would want to transfer where they would go. It is an open market. There is difficulty in getting some of these people at this time, so I would think that they would look to go elsewhere.

Q2631 Mr Reid: I would not expect any trade union to say that your members were given the pay that they deserved, but would it be fair to say that the jobs at Faslane are specialist and therefore higher paid than you would expect people to find if they were to try and get a job elsewhere?

Jim Conroy: These people believe they are underpaid because they have specialist skills.

Q2632 Mr Reid: Yes; I wouldn’t expect you to say anything else. Is it fair to say that the pay rates at Faslane, because of the specialisms, are higher pay rates than you would get if you were working in some other civilian job?

Jim Conroy: I couldn’t possibly answer that.

Q2633 Mr Reid: But you would confirm that there are a lot of highly skilled jobs.

Jim Conroy: There are.

Q2634 Mr Reid: What do you think the implications would be if the referendum did have a yes vote and the Royal Navy were to leave within the next year or two?

Jim Conroy: I think it would be devastation for the west of Scotland as a whole. Our members don’t just reside in the local area-Helensburgh, Garelochhead, Renton and Dumbarton. They travel from Glasgow and even further afield than Glasgow. It would be devastation. You have other support companies outwith the base as well.

Martin McCurley: We have also got personnel from Greenock, Port Glasgow, Gourock and Largs, so every area will be impacted on.

Q2635 Graeme Morrice: Is that the overwhelming view of the work force?

Jim Conroy: We had a mass meeting recently. Nobody asked from the floor what was happening. They knew that we had gone to various meetings and were asking all political parties for their opinion, and asking them specific questions. We are trying to get the answers, so that when we are asked, as their representatives, we can give them the correct answers, so that when it does come to a referendum vote, they are voting with all the relevant information and they can make the right choice in their view. It is important that we get all the answers, and that is why we have sought out meetings with all the political parties to get the answers.

Martin McCurley: It is hard for us to sit here and say that we have spoken individually to the 800 people whom we represent. It is like you guys: you all represent thousands upon thousands of constituents, but you don’t go round and speak to every single one of them. We are in exactly the same predicament. We are here hoping that you will tell us things today that we can take back. You are looking for the same.

Richie Calder: We will try to become totally informed so that, should we be asked, we can relay that information.

Q2636 Graeme Morrice: Hopefully, from the Westminster Hall debate this afternoon, you should pick up quite a bit of information on that issue. I asked about the work force, but in terms of the communities in which you live-and obviously they are within the vicinity of Faslane and Coulport-what are you picking up, in terms of the anecdotal view of residents in your local communities about this whole issue?

Martin McCurley: That is you going from asking us as the Unite union to a personal view.

Graeme Morrice: Yes.

Martin McCurley: I can only give you my personal view. That is one of not enough information coming forward.

Graeme Morrice: That is interesting.

Richie Calder: As a Helensburgh lad, I can say the same. The real meat on the bones isn’t out there. People are really quite sceptical about what has come up so far, which is very little. There is a fear in the community because it is going to take it apart, they feel.

Q2637 Chair: In terms of information, I was under the impression that the present UK Government’s proposal to make the Clyde the centre of submarine excellence with an expansion of jobs was understood by the work force, and, in particular, the idea that the personnel there was going up from 6,700 to 8,200. I thought that side of it was accepted and understood. Am I right in that?

Richie Calder: The current information that we get from the workplace indicates that that would be right. We were expecting our membership to have work for 50 years and beyond-for that period of time.

Q2638 Chair: When you raise this issue about a lack of information-

Martin McCurley: No; I raised the lack of information for me, personally, within the community that I live in.

Q2639 Chair: I understand that, but I am talking about a general lack of information. It seems to me that, unless I have got this wrong, there is a vote coming up. There is a yes and there is a no. My understanding is that the consequences of the no position-of remaining within the United Kingdom-are, or should be, quite clear. That is the one about remaining with the Royal Navy at Faslane and Coulport, all the submarines going up there, it becoming a centre of excellence, and an expansion of jobs, with the figures going up from 6,700 to 8,200. That side of the equation is clear. It is the alternative-what happens if separation occurs-that is not clear. Is that right?

Martin McCurley: Yes.

Richie Calder: Yes, definitely.

Q2640 Lindsay Roy: To what extent is the future of the base the talk of the steamie? How often is it raised with you? How often is it raised within the work force-the uncertainties that you have already described? Is it something that is happening on a daily basis? How many approaches do you get from your members or from other officials about the future?

Martin McCurley: It depends what’s on the front of the newspaper that day, doesn’t it? It really does.

Q2641 Lindsay Roy: Is it generated inside or outside?

Jim Conroy: Generated inside, from our perspective. You get approaches on a daily basis, with people asking-including, as Martin says, if there’s something in the paper. Today’s Daily Record has some headlines in it as well, with documents that were leaked yesterday. There is already further speculation as to the cost of a devolved Scotland and what the cut would be to the defence budget. It is actually quoted in the Daily Record. This is the first time an SNP paper, since they were in Government, quotes-these are not my words-that there is a shortfall in the defence budget. I cannot remember the figure that is quoted in there. Already there are concerns for myself about what we were told by the SNP in Glasgow. If we went to a devolved Scotland, they were saying that the base would be retained.

I have got something written down here. Angus "indicated a new Scottish Navy was likely to be mirrored on what Norway and Denmark currently have at their disposal. Questions were asked to provide the shape of this model and what type of numbers we were talking, as well as what the requirement would be for jobs providing engineering support to the vessels." We don’t know what Norway and Denmark have. What is the engineering support that Norway and Denmark have? That was provided by him on 15 February.

Q2642 Lindsay Roy: Essentially, people are concerned about the lack of information. Have the Scottish Government-the SNP-approached you to discuss these matters with you, or have you had to approach them, and have you got answers or not got answers?

Jim Conroy: We approached them. We had a meeting in Glasgow.

Q2643 Lindsay Roy: So the Scottish Government have not been proactive in this. They have not come forward to you.

Jim Conroy: No.

Q2644 Lindsay Roy: You have been the ones who have been asking questions.

Jim Conroy: We asked them for the meeting.

Q2645 Lindsay Roy: Is that what you expected?

Jim Conroy: No. I would have thought that anybody who is looking to take things forward would want to take the people with them. We are the people who will be affected, as we see it, with a devolved Scotland and the SNP, with the removal of Trident. We want assurances on our job security going forward.

Q2646 Chair: When you say "a devolved Scotland", do you mean a separate Scotland?

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Chair: Obviously, we have devolution just now; you meant separation. That is just for the avoidance of doubt.

Q2647 Lindsay Roy: Are there concerns about a vacuum of information? You don’t have the information. The anxieties are there about the future of a whole range of jobs in Faslane.

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Q2648 Lindsay Roy: All we have is an assertion that everything will be fine.

Richie Calder: Most definitely, Lindsay. When we asked the questions at the meeting on the 15th, they were taken away and so far we have had no response. We do have a colleague who is in contact with Angus Robertson. Unfortunately, he had an accident playing football and he snapped a ligament in his knee. He was supposed to get us the information. We were looking for him to come here today and, hopefully, be a wee bit clearer on things. Certainly at the meeting we had, we raised certain issues and expected a response. Nothing has come back yet.

Q2649 Lindsay Roy: How long ago was that?

Richie Calder: 15 February.

Jim Conroy: On 15 February they did say they would meet with us again in November.

Richie Calder: He made a commitment at a shop stewards committee saying that, when the White Paper was released in November, I believe, we could all meet again.

Q2650 Lindsay Roy: So there is no intention to have a dialogue with you again until that time.

Jim Conroy: No.

Martin McCurley: No.

Richie Calder: I don’t think so.

Q2651 Chair: If you are not able to get information from the SNP, let me tell you about Denmark and Norway. Denmark has two bases, one with 600 personnel and one with 500 personnel. That is 1,100 in total, as compared with the 6,700 that you have. Norway has one base, which has 4,000 people in total. That is servicing five frigates and six submarines.

As part of the division with the UK, the SNP have said that they would not want any nuclear-powered submarines, unless they build submarines in the meantime, but obviously there would be a big gap then. There would not be the need for a substantial number of that 4,000 in a Faslane that just took some surface ships from the UK Navy. That is just at the moment.

It should not be our job to tell you what their option might be, but we are in a position to give you some information, certainly, about the two countries that you have mentioned. It is 1,100 for Denmark and 4,000 for Norway. As I say, that includes six submarines.

Richie Calder: When we met, Ian, on the 15th, it was indicated to us that the tri-forces in Scotland would make up 15,000 uniforms, with a further 5,000 reservists. On the Norway question, when we asked what kind of vessel support they have, I think he said 70 vessels. We were trying to say, "Look, where do you see us being? If so, what is the formula for the support to these vessels?" They were questions we asked him and there haven’t been answers as yet.

Q2652 Lindsay Roy: Were you told Faslane would be the main naval base? Were you given any information about Rosyth?

Jim Conroy: No.

Martin McCurley: No.

Richie Calder: No.

Q2653 Lindsay Roy: Did you ask?

Jim Conroy: No. We were only representing the Clyde.

Lindsay Roy: I understand that.

Q2654 Chair: Some people have been told that the main and only naval base would be in Faslane. You will understand the position, particularly if people have to sail down to the bottom of Argyll-or to the south of Argyll, for those who are technically minded. Any naval threat would be in the north and east, so it is actually in the wrong place. What they have said to some other people is, "No, no, we would want to have something in Rosyth." But, of course, if they have something in Rosyth, that takes away from the numbers at Faslane. We are not entirely clear. There seem to be two different things being said to two different people.

Lindsay Roy: That might be something you want to probe-what their intentions are vis-à-vis Rosyth and Faslane.

Jim Conroy: That is the first time I have personally heard that said-that there would be a split. At any meetings we have attended, there has not been any indication of that.

Q2655 Chair: You can see the logic of it.

Jim Conroy: I can see the logic.

Q2656 Chair: We have also been told that it would be the headquarters for the Scottish forces.

Martin McCurley: Yes, he indicated that; so he did.

Jim Conroy: We obviously took notes at these meetings. "Angus refuted claims of closure for the bases in the Clyde and instead indicated that these facilities were to be utilised to make up the military headquarters for the Scottish defence forces, housing the three main arms of defence-Air, Navy and Army-increasing the on-site uniformed numbers."

Q2657 Chair: Some of us met with the GOC Scotland about the Army. They were agreeing that, yes, some people could be moved there, but it makes sense to have your headquarters as close as possible to the centre of power. In a separate Scotland it would presumably be Edinburgh. Therefore, they would want to have some base there.

Jim Conroy: You can move the high-ranking military personnel into HMNB Clyde, but if there are no ships or submarines there, what do you need our engineering support for?

Q2658 Chair: That was the point particularly about submarines and submarine engineers. Moving the headquarters there does not give jobs for engineers.

Jim Conroy: It would give security of employment for our members who are employed in accommodation and services.

Q2659 Lindsay Roy: Were diesel submarines mentioned at all as part of the assets that a new Scottish defence force might be trying to obtain?

Jim Conroy: No.

Martin McCurley: They didn’t go into the assets.

Jim Conroy: They didn’t go into any details.

Martin McCurley: They mentioned it would be one twelfth whenever the debate started-or if the debate starts.

Q2660 Chair: The difficulty is that our understanding is that they have said they want submarines but they do not want nuclear submarines. Britain only has nuclear submarines. Therefore, if you are going to have diesel or electric submarines, you either have to buy U-boats from Germany or ask somebody else to make them. Of course, making submarines from scratch in Scotland would not only be horrendously expensive but it would take an enormously long time. In the meantime, presumably, your people could not be expected to hang about.

Jim Conroy: When we moved MOD civil servants into the private sector, before Astute came online and the downturn-what they call the workload dip-we had a decrease in our manning levels. We have now come out of the workload dip, and what we see and what has been agreed to with our company and the Government at present is that we have a relatively good future. We know that we have problems going ahead, and that we have to sit with the company and look at the savings that companies have been tasked with through the defence reviews, but we will sit with the company and work to address these. It is getting all the answers for everybody else; they say, "Where are we going with this? What are you promising us?" "We know where we are for the next 50 years. It looks like this." You can predict your future better. It is the unknown; that is why we asked for a meeting with the SNP. It was to give them the opportunity to tell us where our future lay and where our members’ future lay with an independent Scotland. What happens to us with the removal of the missiles? What happens to the whole submarine fleet? That has not been decided yet. That will be further into negotiations if there is a fully devolved Scotland. Where would that leave us? Those are the questions that we are asking and looking for answers to, so that we can tell people, before they put their X in the box, yes or no, where their employment possibilities are.

Chair: That is a very helpful way to put it. You have 50 years of security with the UK, but at the moment it is unknown with the Nationalists. Eleanor, you wanted to come in.

Q2661 Mrs Laing: I apologise for not having been here at the beginning of the meeting. I have too many meetings today. You have partly answered the question that I was going to ask. I was a bit shocked when I heard what you said a little while ago. You are representing several thousand people.

Jim Conroy: No; 800 Unite members. We are here as Unite the Union, representing our members on the Clyde. But there are people employed there-military and other civilians.

Q2662 Mrs Laing: All together, when you put together the number of people who would be affected by the matter we are discussing, it is a very large number.

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Martin McCurley: Yes.

Q2663 Mrs Laing: And you are their voice, largely.

Chair: You are the ones that are here.

Mrs Laing: Maybe that will do.

Martin McCurley: You should put the invite out to Prospect and PCS.

Q2664 Mrs Laing: You reflect the fact that there are large numbers of people affected here. I want to get this absolutely clear. You are saying that, of course, the MOD position has been made clear by the current Government, as to what the plan is for the foreseeable future, and that gives you a certain amount of security. You very reasonably sought a meeting on 15 February at which you asked questions. Am I right in saying that you have been told that you might get an answer to those questions in eight months’ time, in November?

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Q2665 Mrs Laing: But not before.

Jim Conroy: Yes.

Q2666 Mrs Laing: So your members and the other people who are affected by the situation effectively have the rest of this year during which they just wouldn’t know what the position would be.

Jim Conroy: We asked questions, and Angus Robertson said that he would get back to us. He has promised us another meeting in November after the White Paper is published. There could be answers to some of these questions coming back before then, but, as yet, we have had no replies to any of these questions.

Q2667 Mrs Laing: It leaves you in a difficult position.

Richie Calder: We were astounded at that meeting, given the short period of time between the actual vote on this issue, that there was nowt out there at that particular meeting.

Q2668 Mrs Laing: Do you ever wonder how long those who are making these plans-you mentioned Angus Robertson-have had to think out these plans? Do you ever wonder that it is a little bit strange that they can’t give you an answer for another eight months when they have been thinking about it for-how long?

Richie Calder: Absolutely.

Chair: 18 years.

Q2669 Mrs Laing: I was trying to ask the question, Mr Chair. I didn’t want to put words in the mouths of our witnesses.

Jim Conroy: We can only answer that on a personal basis. We cannot answer on behalf of all our members. They will all take their beliefs and vote for what they believe is right for them and their families, but it is important that they have all the information to allow them to make an informed decision. Getting the information has been difficult.

Q2670 Mrs Laing: We are talking here about facts and not beliefs. Of course your members and the other employees will have their beliefs, but you are trying to set before them facts and you are not able to do so because the facts are not available.

Jim Conroy: The facts available to us-they are in your report-relate to the submarines at Faslane. It gives you the information for 2012 right through to 2024. We have the support for these submarines. If they are there, then the engineering support is there. The military personnel stay on shore; we still need that support as well. It is the uncertainty of not having the information about what the future would be if we went in the opposite direction. That is the information that we require to allow our members to make the choice from an informed position. That is why we have asked all parties. We will meet with anybody to get further information, take it back and inform our members of what the future holds for them. We will then let them make the decision. It would be wrong for us to dictate how somebody should vote. That is not what our role is.

Q2671 Mrs Laing: No, and you are quite right in seeking the facts. It is pretty unhelpful that you are not being given the facts.

Martin McCurley: We are pretty hampered here today, because we do not have the answers, but they are not taking up the invitation. It would have been wrong on behalf of our members. As I said earlier, we hope maybe to learn something from you, which is looking unlikely.

Chair: You might learn something this afternoon. There is the debate. Those arguing for separation will have the opportunity to provide clarification on a number of these points that we will be making this afternoon. Hopefully, you will be able to be there and listen to what is said.

Mrs Laing: It is quite possible that those questions might be asked this afternoon.

Chair: It is entirely possible.

Q2672 Mike Crockart: Can I confirm the level of detail that you have been given? It does not seem that there is an awful lot in there. There was talk of a comparison with a Navy similar to Norway and a mention of 70 ships. Was there a breakdown given of what that would be?

Martin McCurley: No.

Richie Calder: That was one of the questions they went away with and that we were supposed to get answers to. That has not been forthcoming.

Q2673 Mike Crockart: Surely, if they are making a comparison with the Norway Navy, then it is a simple task to find out what a Norway Navy looks like.

Jim Conroy: It is mirrored on that model, but we don’t know what the model is. It is an unknown to us at this time. That is why we asked that we get that information.

Q2674 Mike Crockart: You have no time scale as to when that is coming back.

Jim Conroy: No.

Martin McCurley: We could have the information within the next week, two weeks, three weeks, three months or four months.

Q2675 Mike Crockart: You might have it this afternoon.

Martin McCurley: Who knows?

Q2676 Mike Crockart: I am slightly worried. When you talked about the Norwegian Navy, I just looked it up on Google, and, sure enough, that seems to be where the number of 70 comes from. It talks about 70-

Jim Conroy: Personally, I am not going into Google or anywhere else to look for that information. I am looking for the SNP to come back with that information, because it is them who are saying that this is the route that their party is looking to take Scotland down. It is for them to tell us. It could be mirrored on it; it could be the same; or it could be what they have got in place but bigger. It is wrong for me to make a judgment call on something that I don’t know. It is for the SNP, through Angus Robertson, to come back to us and say, "Right, it’s on that model, but the model is a lot bigger. Instead of having a wee rowing boat, you’ve got the Ark Royal."

Richie Calder: We did ask for a full breakdown of that support requirement.

Jim Conroy: How many of those 70 are rowing boats?

Martin McCurley: That is not the response we are looking for. It will be a detailed report that we will be looking for.

Q2677 Mike Crockart: Because that does take into account the coastguard in Norway. The coastguard is contained within the Norwegian Navy.

Jim Conroy: We don’t know that.

Q2678 Mike Crockart: No; I am telling you that it does. There are about 800 personnel-

Martin McCurley: But we don’t know if that is what Angus Robertson is talking about.

Q2679 Graeme Morrice: I want to ask about the work at Coulport. Clearly it is highly specialised; you alluded to that earlier. Can you see any use for the facilities and the skills at Coulport if the nuclear submarines leave? What kinds of alternatives could you see taking place there to utilise the existing skills in the event of Trident leaving the area post-Scottish separatism?

Martin McCurley: At this moment in time, no, I can’t. That is not saying that you couldn’t. I don’t represent the engineers who are there. The people I represent at Coulport are hotel, catering and maintenance. On the maintenance side, if you do not have the nuclear submarines coming in, then you will not require the buildings to do the processing. If there is no processing getting done, then there is no need for the buildings. If you ask me, "Could you use Coulport for something else?", who knows? Maybe a fish farm; I don’t know.

Q2680 Graeme Morrice: I understand that. These are the kinds of questions that we are asking as part of this inquiry. The report probably raises more questions than answers.

Martin McCurley: The question I would be asking the SNP is, if you are going to take Trident out of Coulport, what are you going to replace it with? That is part of the questions we have already asked. Up until we get those answers, then it is pretty hard for me to comment on it.

Jim Conroy: We could all make a judgment on what we could foresee it being used for, but that might not be what the SNP see it being used for. The SNP are talking about conventional weapons. They might want to use Coulport to store conventional weapons; I don’t know.

Q2681 Graeme Morrice: Nevertheless, removing Trident from Coulport and Faslane would be a tremendous upheaval. Presumably, it would take a considerable period of time. It would be prohibitively expensive, and, of course, what happens to Trident? Where does it go? That has an implication for the UK Government and for the remainder of the United Kingdom.

Jim Conroy: That is well documented in the report. Indeed, some of the options are to have foreign-based weapons in France or America. That is all at a cost. It is paragraph 47. That says: "The Minister for the Armed Forces has said that if a newly separate Scotland insisted upon the removal of Trident out of Faslane, and the UK was forced into developing a new base at great expense, then the associated costs would be included in the separation negotiations." What is that cost? Some of the figures are horrendous on what it would cost. There is an article in the paper today about some of the stuff that has now leaked out, and it is quite concerning for us.

Q2682 Graeme Morrice: You would agree that this whole area is fraught with incredible difficulties and uncertainties.

Martin McCurley: Without a doubt.

Richie Calder: Yes.

Q2683 Graeme Morrice: And, so far, it all seems to be based on assertions coming from the Scottish Government.

Martin McCurley: Yes.

Q2684 Mr Reid: In relation to Coulport, if a Scottish Government were only looking for a base to store and manage conventional explosives, would it need anything like as sophisticated as Coulport, or would a much less sophisticated store be enough?

Jim Conroy: Not being from a weapons background, I could not comment on that.

Q2685 Mr Reid: Would it be fair to say, though, that there are people employed at Coulport who are specialists in nuclear weapons?

Martin McCurley: Yes.

Jim Conroy: There are.

Q2686 Chair: At the end of these meetings we always ask our visitors, victims, accused, or whatever they like to be called, two things. One is whether or not there are any answers you had prepared to questions that we did not ask. Are there any points that you want to make to us? In addition, it would be helpful if you let us have questions that we want answered, and we will also raise these as a Committee with the Scottish Government.

First of all, are there any additional points that you want to raise with us at all that we have not covered in this session?

Martin McCurley: At this moment in time, no, we haven’t. We thank you for your words.

Jim Conroy: I think when we met in Glasgow previously we had that opportunity. We have the answers that they will look for. There are indications in this report of where we will be if we stay as a unified country. We know, to a certain extent, our future.

Martin McCurley: If we turned up today with answers from the SNP-Angus Robertson-then possibly we could have had questions for you, but we are in the unknown just now.

Richie Calder: It is unfair for us to speculate until we have seen some-

Q2687 Chair: That is fine. For the record, the meeting that you were referring to with some members of the Committee, where we clarified some of our points, was not recorded, as this meeting is. That was an informal gathering, which involved several members of the Committee, where we went through our report and detailed what was in it.

Martin McCurley: Yes, an informal chat.

Chair: If at any time you are in a position where you can clarify the sorts of things to which you want answers, then by all means come back and let us know if you have been unable to get those answers from either the Scottish Government or the SNP. We will look at what you are raising and then consider whether or not to go off and pursue these points ourselves.

Eleanor, do you want to raise a point?

Q2688 Mrs Laing: Mr Chairman, once again you have pre-empted me. I was going to say that our witnesses must not feel that they are lacking in information in coming before us this morning, because we are even more lacking in information. It is our duty as a Committee of Parliament to try to get the facts straight on this matter. It has been very helpful to talk this morning.

Chairman, is it in order to ask our witnesses, if they do get any answers to their questions, to tell you what they are, if they feel disposed to do so, because we don’t know either?

Chair: It is in order for you to ask that, and it is in order for the witnesses to agree.

Jim Conroy: Hopefully, we will get the meeting in November. After that, we can arrange to either come back here or meet in Glasgow. Whatever way we take it forward, we will relay that information back, because it has to go out into the public domain.

Martin McCurley: We have a shop stewards committee where we have to sit down and discuss it.

Richie Calder: I think most of the shop stewards committee would be disappointed if we had to wait until November after the indications were that we were going to get answers to the serious questions we asked. We would be looking for them sooner rather than later-and well before November.

Martin McCurley: I don’t think we will sit down with them in November, personally. There may be phone calls.

Graeme Morrice: Chair, we may get all the answers this afternoon.

Chair: We may very well get all the answers this afternoon.

Lindsay Roy: I think it is to your credit that you are taking the initiative and continuing to ask the questions, because there is this vacuum. I understand why you are doing that, because of the uncertainty, on behalf of your members.

Q2689 Chair: There is one final point I want to raise with you. You will probably not be able to answer just now, but you might want to take it back with you. I wondered whether or not there was a view that the closure of Faslane or indeed Rosyth was a price worth paying for separation. We have been passed a copy of an e-mail exchange between Raymond Duguid, whom you probably know as the convenor of shop stewards at Rosyth, and Chris McEleny, who is one of your stewards.

Martin McCurley: He is a shop steward at Coulport, yes.

Q2690 Chair: He has indicated, "I’d sacrifice for the better of the country." We are not entirely clear whether or not he is saying he would sacrifice Faslane for the better of the country, leaving aside the grammar, or whether or not he would sacrifice Rosyth or both. We will obviously be seeking to clarify that. I can see why people who are very strongly committed to separation might believe that sacrifices have to be made and that they are willing to sacrifice one particular work location for the betterment of the whole country. That is something that people should be open about, particularly if it is your jobs that he may be sacrificing for the general good. This is something he might want to make clear to you. We will be exploring this as well. If you get any clarification on this, you might want to let us know.

Jim Conroy: Who made the statement about the sacrifice-Raymond or Chris?

Q2691 Chair: We think it is Chris sending it to Raymond. Line 67 on the paper I gave you indicates who the message is from. Line 68 says, "To Raymond Duguid. I’d sacrifice for the better of the country." Then he goes on to say, "As it happens, Faslane and my members’ jobs will be safe." He believes the assurances he had from Angus Robertson, which not all of us do necessarily.

Martin McCurley: "Faslane and my members’ jobs will be safe."

Q2692 Chair: "As it happens", he says.

Martin McCurley: He is a shop steward at Coulport.

Q2693 Chair: It does look as if he is prepared to sacrifice you, but he thinks you would actually be all right.

Martin McCurley: We will take that away.

Q2694 Chair: It may be that you will want to pursue that.

Richie Calder: We will certainly be taking that up.

Q2695 Chair: I will draw the meeting to a close. Thank you very much for being prepared to come along and share with us both the information you have and did not have. We particularly take away from this the fact that you have 50 years of security with the UK, and we would hope you will be able to be there for the debate this afternoon, although you cannot participate in it, where, hopefully, more light will be shed on some of the issues that we have touched on this morning.

Martin McCurley: On behalf of your committee, thanks for the invitation.

Prepared 14th March 2013