Clyde-built frigates will help UK stand up to ‘bullies’, says minister

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Frigates being built on the Clyde will help the Royal Navy stand up to “bullies” like Russia, UK minister Alex Chalk has said, as steel was cut for a new warship.

The minister for defence procurement also said Scotland’s place in the UK meant shipbuilding is “burning brighter than ever”.

On Tuesday, he visited the BAE shipyard in Govan to attend a steel-cutting ceremony for the fourth Type 26 frigate, HMS Birmingham.

Hundreds of shipyard workers gathered in its fabrication building as two apprentices cut the first steel sheets which will house the ship’s propulsion units.

Queen visits Scotland for Holyrood Week
Steel has been cut on the fourth Type 26 frigate (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The first of these, HMS Glasgow, was launched late last year and is currently being fitted out at the BAE yard in Scotstoun.

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, Mr Chalk said: “This is probably the best anti-submarine warship anywhere in the world.

“We want to ensure that we send a message to Russia that if it wants to continue to act as it has done on land, if it wants to progress that onto sea, that we have more than the capability to match that.”

Ben Wallace visit to BAE Govan shipyard
The new frigates are designed to hunt submarines (Jane Barlow/PA)

“They can’t be stood up to without advanced capabilities and it’s the people of Scotland and the people of this region that are providing that.”

Asked about the future of shipbuilding if Scotland became independent, Mr Chalk said he would not be drawn into hypotheticals, saying: “I think Scotland’s place in the union is secure.”

He added: “The lights of Scottish shipbuilding are burning brighter than ever.

“If one thing is crystal clear, it’s that the ability of those lights to burn as brightly as possible is enhanced by Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.”

Ukrainian commanders have been “delighted” to receive the UK’s Challenger tanks, he said, which have recently arrived in the country.

The UK was the first Western country to supply Ukraine with main battle tanks as the war with Russia continues.

Mr Chalk said: “This is just one aspect of a package of support which is allowing the Ukrainian people to defend their freedoms and stand up to bullying from Russia.”

BAE’s managing director of naval shipbuilding, Sir Simon Lister, said the Type 26 programme employed about 4,000 people directly.

The first Type 26 ship will be delivered around a year later than originally planned, he said, but the third through to the eighth ships are progressing according to schedule.

He said: “The ultimate cost of the frigates will vary according to inflation and will have to absorb the rise in energy costs.

“But those components are always kept to the absolute minimum, it’s taxpayer’s money after all.”

The Royal Navy Commodore Stephen Roberts addressed the assembled shipbuilders, thanking them for their work and said: “You have put your heart and soul into the construction of these ships which will have a legacy for decades.”

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