THE Westminster Government’s decision to sell off the Royal Navy’s most recent flagship HMS Ocean to Brazil could directly affect workers at Rosyth Dockyard who are anxiously awaiting news of more contracts to maintain workforce numbers.

Owners Babcock announced 250 redundancies at Rosyth shortly before Christmas but said work could be transferred from its Devonport operation if the Ministry of Defence approved it, with finance proving a major stumbling block.

The news of the sell-off comes as it was confirmed in the US yesterday that three more Boeing P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft have been ordered by the RAF and will be based at Lossiemouth.

READ MORE: Save Our Scotland Brand: Scotch beef and lamb sellers warn of red meat shortage

Nine will be based at Lossiemouth and yesterday’s news confirmed that with three more on the order books, a total of five confirmed orders — costing more than £500 million — have been placed.

It was revealed by the UK Defence Journal that HMS Ocean is being sold to Brazil for a reported £84m just more than two years after the amphibious assault vessel was refitted at a cost of £65m.

The Royal Navy’s largest ship currently on active service — the Rosyth-assembled HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will not be fully operational until 2020 — is based at Devonport Naval Base where the dockyard is rivalling Rosyth for new contracts.

The National revealed last month that work on the refitting of the engines of Type 45 destroyers and the scheduled refit of ocean survey vessel HMS Scott could be withheld from Rosyth because naval personnel based around Devonport are reluctant to relocate to Fife.

Richard Hardy, national secretary for Scotland for the Prospect union, said at the time: “On behalf of those members facing a bleak Christmas at the risk of redundancy, Prospect is more than disappointed at this decision by the MoD, which seems to be based on crew convenience, rather than any sensible economic or workload metrics.”

Finance was always a greater issue, however, and the sale of HMS Ocean suggests that money could now be available to enable the work on HMS Scott and the much larger contract to refit the Type 45 engines to be done at Rosyth.

The sale of HMS Ocean, which cost £150m when she was launched in 1995 after being mostly built at the then Kvaerner yard on the Clyde, is proving controversial not least because she is the Navy’s largest vessel capable of delivering helicopter support.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: “Hugely disappointing if this turns out to be true, HMS Ocean undergoes a refit, then sold for just £84 million.

“Government have refused to engage on issue of amphibious capability for months. Tories talk a good game but they’re consistently hollowing out our defence capabilities.”

A spokesperson for the MoD told The National: “Discussions with Brazil over the long-planned sale of HMS Ocean are at an advanced stage, but no final decisions have been made. HMS Ocean has served admirably with us since 1998 and the revenue she generates will be reinvested in defence as we bolster our Royal Navy with two types of brand new frigates and two huge aircraft carriers.”

On the issue of whether Rosyth can now get refit work, the spokesperson said: “This is the subject of ongoing commercial negotiations, so it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It was confirmed in the US yesterday that the three more Boeing P-8 aircraft will have the job of looking after Nato ships off Scotland as well as seeking out Russian submarines.

The aircrafts are to be based at RAF Lossiemouth which is being expanded to cater for them with job security for staff guaranteed for years.

The P-8s are also to perform search-and-rescue missions and conduct overland reconnaissance.