CLAIMS a Scottish shipbuilding firm could quit the country after independence have been rubbished.

David Lockwood, the head of engineering giant Babcock, said the company might relocate its Rosyth yard to England, if it were made to feel unwelcome in an independent Scotland.

Thousands of jobs have been supported by the 300-acre Fife yard in recent years and the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers were built there.

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The National:

Lockwood (above) told The Courier that independence was something the firm could “manage” – adding: “When you look at the timelines, there’s nothing we can’t manage as a company.”

But he said if the firm was told “we weren’t welcome here [in Scotland]” it may leave the country in the event it exits the Union.

His claims have been questioned by some – with the Rosyth's local MP saying he was “disappointed” by the comments.

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman added: “I have consistently supported Babcock and the Rosyth workforce. They make a very valuable and significant contribution to our economy.

“They operate and are welcomed in many independent countries globally.

“An independent Scotland will be no different.”

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And SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald said the yard would be “not just welcome, but vital” in an independent Scotland.

The National:

He said: “Important to note independence described as ‘manageable’ for Babcock, but would only leave if ‘made to feel unwelcome.’

“Babcock is not just an important employer, but would play a crucial role in an independent Scotland’s defence capability. Not just welcome, but vital.”

The National:

The Glasgow MP (above) noted the defence sector was a “well established” part of the UK economy adding: “It’s vital that we can show that the future of that industry has a place here with independence.

“It’s not just the right thing to do for people's jobs, but for our own defence and security posture too.”

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Lockwood spoke after the Prime Minister visited the Fife shipyard on Monday and saw work being carried out to build the first new Type 31 frigate for the Royal Navy.

Lockwood told The Courier he welcomed the deal announced recently between the Scottish and UK governments for two "green freeports" in Scotland.

Asked about a second independence referendum, he told the newspaper: “I lived in Scotland for 10 years and it was a rumbling thing then and I think it’s just going to be a rumbling thing.

“I think in reality there will be plenty of warning if the vote were in favour of independence.

“There would then be a negotiation period and at the end of the negotiation period there would be an implementation period.

“I don’t think there is anything that we can’t manage as a company. When you look at the timelines, there’s nothing we can’t manage as a company.

“If we had to replicate this in England because we were told we weren’t welcome here – which I think would be a bad mistake for Scotland – but if that were the decision, we can replicate this in three years, and the time window of negotiations is longer than that.

“It’s not ideal but it is manageable.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The people of Scotland delivered a clear democratic mandate to the Scottish Government to hold a referendum on independence within the first half of this Parliament, Covid permitting, and that is what we are committed to doing.

“Scotland is already one of the most attractive places in the world to do business, and the evidence clearly shows that Scotland has the talent and ambition to build a prosperous economy, drive economic recovery and raise competitiveness.”

Babcock declined to comment.