SHIPBUILDING on the Clyde has been dealt a further blow after it was confirmed that three massive vessels for the Royal Navy could be built abroad.

Defence Minister Harriet Baldwin said the 40,000 tonne vessels would be subject to open tender meaning that UK shipyards could miss out and leave the Clyde facing increased competition for future orders.

Unions had hoped the vessels would be constructed in yards across the UK and leave the specialist yards on the Clyde to built complex warships.

But the loss of the order overseas would see Scotstoun and Govan facing increased competition for future deals that could jeapordise their futire beyond 2030. Now unions are demanding the vessels are built in the UK as seeking an international tender “undermines the national interest”.

The GMB union is calling for cross-parliamentary support of MPs as well as shipbuilding employers to join workers and their communities and demand an end to this tragic missed opportunity for UK shipbuilding.

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said: “The RFA contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential and transforming the fortunes of our shipbuilding communities.

“But Ministers’ refusal to put the UK’s interests first will mean that instead of a massive programme of shared economic and employment re-distribution, our shipbuilding firms will be competing against each other for slivers of complex warship work.

“The RFA vessels will support and serve our Royal Navy and we have the capacity and skills base to deliver their manufacture, while generating hundreds of millions of pounds worth of wages for the UK economy.

“It beggars belief that the Government wants to give this golden opportunity away to foreign competitors when working class communities up and down the country are crying out for decent work.”

Unions and opposition politicians have already accused the UK Government of betrayal after a £1.25 billion order for five new warships last night looked on course to go to Merseyside.

Fears have been growing in recent months that a deal for five Type 31e frigate warship would not go to a Glasgow yard.

Hopes were finally dashed when it was confirmed a joint partnership agreement had been set up by BAE Systems, owners of the Govan and Scotstoun yards, and Birkenhead-based Cammell Laird to bid for the Type 31e.

Chris Stephens, SNP MP for Southwest Glasgow said: “The answer from the UK Government exposes the illogical steps being taken under its National Shipbuilding Strategy.

“From breaking promises to the workers on the Clyde that guaranteed work is being taken away from them, to the idiocy of sending work abroad.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are launching a competition for three new Fleet Solid Support ships next year and strongly encourage British yards to take part.

“All our warships are built in the UK and between the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels, the Type 26 frigates and the new Type 31e frigates, we are witnessing a renaissance in British shipbuilding.”