Shipbuilding in Scotland is set to contribute more to the economy as the industry grows backed by increased spending.

An analysis from finance firm Rift has shown that despite the steep decline from the glory days of the 1900s, Scotland’s shipbuilding industry has remained steadily consistent in recent years.

However, it said a push to rebuild the sector could bring a potential boost of £342m to the Scottish economy, while more recently it has been bolstered by an increase in defence investment.

In the early 1900s, it is thought that a fifth of the world’s ships were built on the River Clyde in Glasgow, with 70,000 in the city alone, but following high demand during both the First and Second World War, the industry has since declined rapidly, due to competition from other nations such as China, Japan and Korea.

BAE Systems' new shipbuilding hall will also be a new landmark in GlasgowBAE Systems' new shipbuilding hall will also be a new landmark in Glasgow (Image: BAE Systems)

Analysis of the latest government figures by Rift shows that in 2021, the Scottish shipbuilding sector employed just 6,700 workers, accounting for just 0.36% of total Scottish employment figures, with an estimated six ships built over the course of a year, all of which were either workboat or fishing vessels.

This employment figure sits 12% below the highest peak of the last decade when 7,600 workers were employed in 2017, however, it has been steadily climbing in recent years.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of workers within the sector fell from 7,600 to 6,200, the lowest number seen over the last decade.


 Defence giant books £10 billion worth of orders

New Glasgow landmark takes shape on banks of Clyde

Ship built at famous Scottish yard to enter water for first time

Since then this number has climbed steadily to the 6,700 recorded in 2021 and with Scottish shipbuilding remaining a billion-pound sector, turning over £1.022 billion that year.

Almost £400m went towards boosting the Scottish economy in 2021 (Gross Value Added).

Rift’s analysis shows that over the last decade, the total turnover per employee within the Scottish shipbuilding sector has averaged £180,119, while the average gross value added per employee sits at £55,309 over the last 10 years.

Rift has also projected that if employment numbers were to double from the 6,700 seen in 2021 to 13,400, this would push the total turnover of the Scottish shipbuilding industry to £2.414bn, with gross value added to the Scottish economy via the sector increasing to £741m per year - a boost of £342m versus the annual total GVA seen in 2021.

While difficulties at the Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine have been documented, hundreds of jobs are being created by BAE Systems as it expands its operations in Glasgow, and shipbuilding has been high on the agenda in the months leading up to the General Election.

Bradley Post, managing director of Rift, said: “Scotland is a fiercely proud nation and this is certainly no different when it comes to the nation’s proud history of shipbuilding, as demonstrated by the fight to keep the sector alive by the workers, in particular, in recent history.

“While the industry today remains a far cry from its glory days of the 1900s, it has, at least, benefited from calmer waters in recent years, with employment figures remaining fairly consistent and the sector still turning over a billion pounds a year.”