SNP Defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara – whose Argyll and Bute seat is the location of the Faslane Naval base – is commenting on reports that cost cutting by the MoD and Babcock at the nuclear submarine base is now raising serious safety concerns. It has emerged that Babcock, who run HMNB Clyde on behalf of the MoD, want to extend the time period that nuclear powered submarines can be berthed at Faslane without any electrical power, from the current 20 minutes to up to three hours.

The fear among many of those working at Faslane is that this proposed change is principally a cost-driven exercise borne from the MoD’s demand that Babcock reduce costs. It is feared that in the three hours that the submarines will be without power – as proposed by these new regulations – the nuclear reactors on board the submarines could heat up, raising very serious safety concerns.

Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP Defence spokesperson commented:

“This is all about safety. Safety, when we are dealing with nuclear fuelled submarines is paramount and anything that appears to compromise that must be questioned and then explained fully. “

“I have been approached by several constituents who have worked at the base for many years. They have raised grave and genuine concerns about the proposed extension to how long a nuclear powered submarine can lie alongside without power.

“Safety must be paramount and if – as many of the workforce at Faslane believe- the MoD and/or Babcock are proposing this change to cut costs, then people will be absolutely and rightly outraged.

“As I understand it, this proposed extension to the time a nuclear powered submarine can lie without an electrical supply will allow Babcock to substantially reduce staff costs and will save them around £4.5 million per year. And I am extremely concerned, that having listened to many of those who work there, that nuclear safety is being compromised in order to save money.

“If the people of Helensburgh and Lomond are to have this facility on our doorstep – and for the large population centres nearby – we must have faith that those in charge will always make safety and security their top priority. Stories like this, particularly coming from constituents working inside the base are therefore very, very worrying.’’

“That is why I have tabled a series of questions to the Ministry of Defence.

I want to know;

  •          Did the MoD discuss the proposal to extend the length of time a nuclear powered submarine can lie without power?
  •          Is this being done on instruction of the MoD?
  •          What detailed analysis on the safety of this proposed change has been undertaken?
  •          Why this change is deemed necessary in the first place?
  •          Exactly how much money do Babcock stand to save by the change in shift patterns this will mean?
  •          Has an Independent Nuclear Safety Assessment been made?

“The Tory obsession with cuts austerity is driven by choice not necessity. They are driven to cut – cut and cut again. But when it comes to nuclear safety we must have absolute assurances that this marginal saving that they claim to be making by cutting staff costs to the bone – is not going to compromise safety.