LONDON (AP) -- British defense contractor BAE Systems announced plans to cut some 1,775 jobs at three shipyards Wednesday, ending the building of warships in England for the first time in hundreds of years.
BAE told unions it was starting the legal process to stop shipbuilding at a yard in Portsmouth in England and eliminate jobs at Govan and Scotstoun in Scotland once work is completed on two aircraft carriers in 2015.
The cuts will have political ramifications ahead of a Scottish independence vote in 2014. Critics charge Scottish shipyards got preferential treatment at the expense of the English one to prevent independence leader Alex Salmond from arguing that Scotland was punished for seeking independence.
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, a local government leader in Portsmouth, told the BBC on Wednesday that closing the Portsmouth shipyard raised the prospect that no advanced warships would be built in England — potentially forcing Britain to turn to France or Germany for ships.
Ships have been built in Portsmouth for hundreds of years, since Britain first became a naval power.
"We're an island nation," said Gerald Vernon-Jackson, a local government leader. "We depend on sea trade for the food we eat, for the fuel in our cars, for the gas in our central heating systems, and the Royal Navy has never bought ships from abroad."