A south coast daily has published a front page open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding a rethink over government plans to end shipbuilding operations in the region next year.
The News in Portsmouth has warned Mr Cameron that bringing an end to the area’s shipping industry would pose an immediate risk to the south coast economy and result in the loss of almost 1,000 jobs in the city.
Wording of the open letter was agreed at talks organised by the Johnston Press-owned newspaper in response to last week’s shock announcement on the shipyard’s closure.
Editor Mark Waldron spearheaded the campaign and signed the letter alongside other community leaders who fear the decision poses an immediate risk to national defence and the UK’s sovereign capability.
He said the letter is a powerful demonstration of the determination throughout the Portsmouth area to fight the decision to end shipbuilding in the city.
“There has been a lot of shock, anger and passion around the city over how the decision is the wrong decision – not just for the city, but also for the nation,” he said in a video message recorded for The News’ website.
“So what we’ve tried to do is to instil our readers’ passion and married it up with the good work the unions have been doing, and tied that in with the work our MPs and councillors have been doing to pave the way forward.”
Unions, MPs and council leaders have joined forces with the newspaper in a bid to safeguard shipbuilding, jobs and vital skills across the city.
“We’ve tried to bring all of that together and capture it on our front page today. I think it’s important we’ve got a united front on the idea of what we do in the future,” added Mark.
The letter also calls on Mr Cameron to visit Portsmouth as soon as possible, along with defence secretary Philip Hammond.
“We recognise that for the future there would have to be a reduction in the workforce in Portsmouth, but we fundamentally disagree that shipbuilding has to cease in the city entirely”, it states.
“Do you agree with us that it is strategically important for the nation to retain this sovereign capability in Portsmouth and Scotland?
“If so, we call on you to immediately suspend the decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth ahead of a Cabinet Office review into all of the options available.”
The decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth and use the yard only for repairs in future was announced by owner BAe systems earlier this month.
However there have been claims that the decision was a political fix to ensure fewer shipbuilding jobs were lost at BAe’s other yards on the Clyde ahead of next year’s Scottish independence referendum.