SCOTTISH ministers have handed out more than £3.6 million in taxpayers’ cash to multinational arms firms, in a move that has led to questions about their commitment to human rights. 

Scottish Enterprise, the Government’s economic development agency, defended the grants, saying they were supporting companies that “employ tens of thousands of people across Scotland”. 

A spokesman for the Government said the money was not for munitions but to help the arms firms to “diversify their activities and technologies”. 

But Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International UK’s Scotland programme director, said the funding awards “raise very serious questions about what human rights due diligence Scottish Enterprise is carrying out”.

They also questioned what oversight the Scottish Government is exercising as substantial sums of public money are handed out.

US weapons manufacturer Raytheon, which has facilities in Glenrothes and Livingston and employs around 700 people, was awarded £600,000 last year.  

That’s considerably more than the £100,000 it received from Scottish Enterprise between 2016 and 2020.

It has been criticised in recent years by charities and NGOs working in Yemen.

In January a precision-guided munition made by the firm, fired by the Saudi-led coalition, hit a detention centre in Sa’adah, killing at least 80 people and injuring more than 200, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Ms McAuliffe said: “It is concerning to see such an increase in Scottish public money awarded to Raytheon – a company we know has manufactured weapons used in incidents that could amount to war crimes.” 

Thales UK Ltd was handed £1,111,094, which is up on the £98,000 it received from Scottish Enterprise in the previous financial year. 

It is one of the world’s biggest arms companies, with more than $9 billion of arms sales in 2019. 

The UK Government recently sent its portable Starstreak short-range air-defence system to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against the Russian invasion.

Babcock’s Rosyth Royal Dockyard, where work is currently under way on the Ministry of Defence’s programme to build five Type 31 frigates, received £1,958,858.

Chemring Energetics, which provides “products based on energetic materials (explosive, propellant) for the defence, security and commercial markets” was awarded £1,500.

North East Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba said the figures were alarming and called for ministers to come to the Scottish Parliament, “and provide a comprehensive audit of this taxpayer subsidy for the arms industry, with a full breakdown of what this public money was used for, stating what, when, how, where and why, this took place”.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer criticised the SNP administration’s spending choices. He said: “Public money should be used for public good. It should not be going to multi-billion pound arms companies who are profiteering from conflict around the world.” 

Sean Clerkin, from the Scottish Peace Network, who uncovered the figures through Freedom of Information legislation, said:“The Scottish Government via Scottish Enterprise has to stop subsidising such multinational arms companies, such as Thales, who make tens of millions of pounds in profits from their weapons of death.”

A Scottish Enterprise spokesman defended the support: “The aerospace, defence and shipbuilding companies we work with employ tens of thousands of people across Scotland, and our aim is to help make their Scottish operations as economically sustainable as possible and support continued diversification of their product lines, with a view to sustaining and growing employment.

“Our support for companies in these sectors is focused on specific projects undertaken at their Scottish sites. Decisions to assist companies are based on the economic potential of proposed projects, all of which are delivered in line with the economic and social impacts legally agreed.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government and our enterprise and skills agencies do not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions. 

“Support for defence sector companies is primarily focused on helping firms to diversify their activities and technologies, ensuring Scotland continues to benefit from significant economic returns and thousands of jobs in the sector.

“Our enterprise agencies have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that any funding provided is used only for the specific purpose intended and that human rights due diligence checks are central to the application process.”