THE Scottish business minister has defended public cash being given to an arms giant which sold munitions to Saudi Arabia, who are engaged in a bombing campaign against neighbouring Yemen.

Jamie Hepburn said the money from Scottish Enterprise – totalling £185,000 since 2014 – was to help Raytheon move into areas away from the manufacture of weapons.

He said some of the funding had been used by the Glenrothes-based firm to establish a project on commercial aviation with Strathclyde University and insisted the decision to allow the company to export weapons was a matter for the UK Government.

“Our position is very clear. There are two issues here, the first is of course the export of munitions to Saudi Arabia under export licences, that is not something the Scottish Government controls, that is the UK Government,” he said.

The Scottish Government would not allow weapons to be exported to Saudi Arabia if it had the power to do so, he stated.

“My party I would say has been leading the way in calling the UK Government to cease the granting of export licences for the export of munitions to Saudi Arabia, particularly in the context of the appalling scenes we are seeing in Yemen right now.

“And that’s a call I would reiterate here and right here and now. It is not something that we believe should be happening and indeed if we had control over these matters we would not be granting those export licences.”

He added: “We have been very clear, the investment we make in the sector is not for the production of munitions. No Scottish Government funding whatsoever goes towards the production of munitions.”

Pressed on how he knew what the money had been spent on, he said: “It’s about diversification, it’s about ensuring that the companies can have new areas of work. So for example one of the areas the funding has led to is ensuring collaboration between the company and Strathclyde University for research and development projects into commercial aviation.

“This is a sector which employs many thousands of people across Scotland and what we want to do is that they seek out new markets which are not based on defence. This is a company which is a critical employer in the Fife area and we know the Fife economy has been suffering significantly in recent times.”

Almost 10,000 people – two-thirds of them civilians – have been killed and 55,000 others injured in the fighting since the war in Yemen escalated in early 2015, according to the United Nations.

The conflict started when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced the President into exile. Alarmed by the rise of a group, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government.

The fighting and a partial blockade by the coalition has left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have affected a million people.

Earlier this month 40 children were killed in a Saudi-led air strike in the northern province of Saada, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.

The children were travelling on a school bus when it was hit at a market in Dahyan. 51 people were killed in total. Last weekend it emerged that Jane’s, the respected defence industry publication, said remnants of a guidance kit by Raytheon were found close to the scene of the strike. A photograph taken beside the bus shows a child holding a piece of shrapnel from the missile that matches images of a Paveway warhead posted on Raytheon’s website.

A Raytheon spokesperson said: "Our manufacturing hub in Glenrothes is a true success story; founded more than 50 years ago and home to 700 employees, Raytheon’s facility there was the first semiconductor fabrication plant in Silicon Glen and remains one of the largest private employers in Fife.

"We have a strategy to diversify our business, an example of this is our investment in technology that positions us to become a leading power solutions provider for both civil and military applications.

"These include leading anti-jam GPS capability and next generation air traffic management systems to powering future commercial electric aircraft."