§ 10. Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey)
When he last met representatives of Scottish Enterprise to discuss defence-related jobs in Scotland. 
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)
I have regular meetings with representatives of Scottish Enterprise to discuss a range of issues, which has included their approach to defence-related industries. My most recent meeting was on 2 June.
§ Mr. Colvin
What assessment has Scottish Enterprise made of the impact of the strategic defence review, which was announced recently, on the Scottish economy? Is the Secretary of State aware that, in the country as a whole, a third of Ministry of Defence jobs are in the civilian sector and that some 400,000 people work in our defence-related industries? As the Government have decided to slash the defence budget by nearly £1 billion and the Secretary of State for Defence is now looking for more than £500 million of savings through greater efficiency and a similar amount through smarter procurement, what is the right hon. Gentleman's assessment of the number of jobs that that will cost Scotland?
§ Mr. Dewar
I recognise that it is in the hon. Gentleman's best interests to be a little gloomy about events—for a number of reasons, probably—but the strategic defence review was widely welcomed. It was certainly widely welcomed by the armed forces because it is centrally based on a strategic assessment of our defence needs.
As for Scotland, we have not had time to analyse the matter in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. Scottish Enterprise has not been back to me with any views on that. I take the view that defence industries are extremely important in the Scottish context. I have a constituency interest in Yarrow, the frigate builders, for example; Scotland has big interests in electronics, with GEC at Groathill in Edinburgh; and there is the Rosyth dockyard. On the whole, Scotland appreciates the strategic drive behind the changes. There is probably some satisfaction in some of the decisions, and opportunities remain for the defence sector in Scotland.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
Is it not good for Scotland to participate in armed forces that are big hitters in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and have the capacity to play an important part in United Nations international operations? My right hon. Friend may be aware that another party represented in the House wants to take Scottish troops out of the British armed forces and leave us with an army of tartan conscripts. Will he confirm that the Government have much higher ambitions for Scottish service men and the Scottish defence industry?
§ Mr. Dewar
I will resist the temptation to say that the general could perhaps wear a tartan lum-hat as he led his troops.
906 My hon. Friend is right to point out that there would be significant repercussions if we were to isolate ourselves by withdrawing from NATO. It is also true—I speak with some feeling because of the constituency interests that I mentioned—that, if Scottish defence contractors were unable to compete for defence orders for the British Army, or for the Army of what remained the United Kingdom with Scotland withdrawn, there would be a direct threat to employment prospects, which would be a serious and worrying matter for many of us.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)
Following on from the strategic defence review, will the Secretary of State acknowledge the considerable sense of relief in the south-west highlands about the longer-term securing of the British underwater test and evaluation centre range at Kyle of Lochalsh for torpedo testing? It is the most significant employer in the area in terms of skilled employment and the prospects for keeping young people there, but yesterday's written answer to me, which was made after the SDR outcome, suggests that is difficult for the Ministry of Defence to make predictions for the longer term—beyond the next five years or so. Will the Secretary of State undertake to ensure that the Scottish Office liaises closely with the MOD about the future of the facility, given that it provides such an underpinning of the local economy?
§ Mr. Dewar
Of course I will look at that and bear it in mind. The important issue is that any SDR has to be conditioned by our defence requirements and the strategy that we want to follow in those terms, but we are all conscious of the dangers to jobs that can result. On the whole, I regard the solution as balanced and sensible, and one that we welcome strongly in Scotland.