4,500 jobs at risk at Rosyth

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The Independent Online
PUBLIC outrage over pit closures is forcing ministers to reconsider secret plans to shut the Rosyth naval dockyard on the Firth of Forth with the loss of 4,500 jobs, writes Jeremy Warner.

With at least a further 5,000 people relying on the yard and adjacent naval base for their livelihoods, the effect of closure on employment in the region would be devastating.

Ministry of Defence officials believe huge cost savings could be achieved by closing Rosyth and concentrating all naval refitting work at Devenport in Plymouth. But, mindful of the uproar over coal, Malcolm Rifkind, the Defence Secretary, is resisting pressure to grasp the nettle and has told local MPs no decision has yet been made.

Babcock International, the engineering group that runs the yard on behalf of the MoD in conjunction with Thorn EMI, believes it would be political madness to close Rosyth.

It has put forward a rival proposal under which both Devenport and Rosyth would be managed by a single privatised company with work on surface vessels undertaken at Devenport and refitting of Polaris, Hunter-Killer and Trident submarines concentrated at Rosyth. Some pounds 200m of taxpayers' money for a new dry dock facility for Trident subs would be wasted if the yard was closed, Babcock claims.

Mr Rifkind is also fighting a fierce rearguard action to save the pounds 20bn European Fighter Aircraft project. Some 40,000 jobs at British Aerospace and elsewhere in the defence industry rely on the project.

(Photograph omitted)