BRITAIN has shelved plans to build a new generation of cheap frigates in the latest fall-out from a controversial decision not to invest on the Clyde.

The MoD had planned to order five Type 31e frigates for delivery by 2023 on top of the eight more sophisticated Type 26s already on the books of Glasgow yards.

However, it was unable to secure any offers to build the ships at its maximum price of £250m each after torpedoing proposals for a specialist frigate factory last year.

The MoD which said there were “insufficient compliant bids for an effective and robust competition” was accused of burying bad news - with the announcement coming on the final day of the parliamentary term.  It is the day that is dubbed "taking out the trash" day for Whitehall departments.

The Herald:

It is thought only two serious bidders were competing to build the warships trumpeted by ministers as a cut price replacement for an ageing fleet of anti-submarine vessels. It is understood neither came within the budget set.

In February, last year BAE Systems confirmed it would no longer invest in a major new outfitting hall to build new frigates for the Royal Navy - which would have made the Type 31e project even cheaper.

Shipbuilding insiders then stressed that scrapping the giant shed which relied on government contracts was just the latest move to downgrade multi-million-pound investments on the Clyde mooted before the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

Thirteen, Type 23, Duke-class frigates are being retired and replaced by just eight Type 26 Global Combat Ships and the five Type 31s were to make up the shortfall.

The stripped-down Type 31 frigates designed to boost the number of ships in service at a low cost.

In November local politicians had emphasised the importance of the getting the Type 31e contract after Rosyth yard owners Babcock said 250 staff would no longer be needed as work is completely on a £10 billion naval aircraft carriers project.

A team led by Babcock had unveiled a proposal for the £1.25 billion Type 31e general purpose light frigate programme and just last month.

Called the Arrowhead 140, the design was a contender for the Type 31 project.

Defence giants Babcock and BMT recently signed a cooperation agreement which could see the Type 31e built in Rosyth, Scotland and Appledore, Devon if their bid was successful. But they were faced with a rival 'Leander' bid from Merseyside shipbuilder Cammell Laird in partnership with defence giant BAE Systems.

The halting of the Type 31e project was described as "utterly shocking" by SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald.

“This has deeply serious consequences for our naval defence capabilities and the future of the shipbuilding across the UK," he said.

SNP MP Douglas Chapman, whose constituency includes the Fife port town accused the government of burying bad news with the announcement coming as Westminster goes into summer recess.

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He said: "Disappointed but not surprised that the UK Government are about to pull the Type31e frigate contracts that were to be the new bright export hope of British naval shipbuilding.

"Now it looks like everything is on hold and with no budget, this is a body blow for the likes of Rosyth and the political integrity of the UK," he said.

"Even those shipbuilders who thought we were Better Together in 2014 must feel absolutely conned...sorry guys, you were!

"All the more concerning is that this news has come after Westminster has gone into recess, and no Tory Minister will be able to be scrutinised on this decision until Parliament returns in early September.

"Call me cynical but trying to bury bad news like this on the last day of Parliament speaks volumes why Westminster doesn’t work for Scotland."

Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney said: "It's clear the MoD price target was unrealistic without putting in place the certainty of the orders being placed with a given consortium, so they could invest and be match-fit to build the ship at that price.

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"The industry deserves better than for this story to be sneaked out on the day before recess. It's disappointing that the Secretary of State did not choose to inform the house."

Some experts believed the budget for designing and building a brand new warship was just too low.

Howard Wheeldon an independent defence analyst said: “The pressures on industry have never been greater and it could be that bidders couldn’t make enough profit on the contract under the current terms."

An MoD spokeswoman said: “There have been no changes in our plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates to grow our Royal Navy.

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson said during the 2016 Holyrood election campaign that the "light frigate order" would definitely be going to the Clyde.

“We still want the first ship delivered by 2023 and are confident that industry will meet the challenge of providing them for the price tag we’ve set.

“This is an early contract in a wider procurement process, and we will incorporate the lessons learned and begin again as soon as possible so the programme can continue at pace.”

Babcock declined to comment.