Coronavirus: Devolved leaders urge PM to help aerospace sector

The first ministers of the devolved nations have called for “urgent” UK government intervention to help the struggling aerospace sector.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford of Wales and Arlene Foster from Northern Ireland have signed a joint letter.

They believe a taskforce should be launched to help the industry, which has been hit hard by coronavirus.

The UK government said the industry was a “critical part” of the UK economy.

A spokesman said it continued to work closely with the sector to ensure it can rebuild as the civil aviation market recovers.

The letter is also signed by leaders of the Unite union which brought the politicians together for the initiative.

Unite says tens of thousands of jobs in the sector and associated industries are on the “brink of being lost forever”.

In May, MPs were told up to 8,000 jobs could go in the aerospace sector in Wales.

Scotland has also been hit hard with more than 1,200 jobs likely to go at companies such as Rolls Royce and GE Caledonian.

In Northern Ireland Bombardier, Collins Aerospace and Thompson Aero have announced plans to lay off more than 1,300 staff.

‘Positive signal’

The political leaders said the creation of an aerospace taskforce “would be a positive signal to the sector”.

They added such a move would show “all our governments remain committed to working together in order to preserve this sector that is hugely important to the whole of the UK”.

And they stressed the need to act quickly, warning: “Urgent intervention is now required to preserve capability and avert further damaging losses.”

The proposed taskforce would include “active participation” from the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as unions and companies working in the sector.

Ms Sturgeon said: “As we approach the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of October, there is a real possibility of significant job losses across the UK.

“We have repeatedly called for the UK government to reconsider its position and to extend the scheme, especially for sectors that have been particularly hard-hit like aerospace.”

She added “sector-specific approaches” were necessary to prevent a “severe” long term impact.

‘Lost forever’

The Scottish government has already set up an aerospace response group to help the industry address the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of Unite, said: “Tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and those supported by the aerospace sector in the supply-chain are on the brink of being lost forever.

“It’s clear that many of the measures required to support the sector reside with the UK government, which is why we are collectively asking the prime minister to immediately establish a UK aerospace taskforce to co-ordinate support.”

He added the situation in Scotland alone “risks a £185 million blow to the economy”.

A UK government spokesman said: “The aviation and aerospace sector remains a critical part of the UK economy and we will continue to work closely with industry through the Aerospace Growth Partnership to ensure it can rebuild as the civil aviation market recovers.

“The UK government is supporting the aerospace and aviation sectors with over £8.5bn in grants, loans and export guarantees.

“Through major R&D investment of nearly £2bn to 2026, we are also developing new tech to make air travel safer and greener while creating new, well-paid green jobs for decades to come.”

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