Arms firms profiting from a war in Yemen that has killed 70,000 people were given nearly £3m of tax payers’ money last year, we can reveal.

The companies receiving grants from Scottish Enterprise include an Italian multinational in Edinburgh called Leonardo MW which is the ninth largest arms company in the world.

Its products include missiles, drones, military helicopters and warplanes. Last year Leonardo MW was awarded nearly £1.5m by Scottish Enterprise, taking its total funding by the tax payer to £7.5m since 2015.

The firm was among four defence companies awarded nearly £3m in total last year by Scottish Enterprise, according to a Freedom of Information reply.

Raytheon – which makes smart bombs used in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition accused of war crimes – was awarded £50,160 while Rolls Royce was given £1.3m.

Rolls Royce is part of the consortium that makes engines for the Tornado and Typhoon jets, both of which are being used in Yemen.

Rolls Royce also has a maintenance contract for the Saudi Eurofighter programme which, according to a 2007 article in Defence Aerospace, is worth up to £1bn.

Pension fund investments in arms firms profiting from Yemen’s war worth £130m

Leonardo MW’s sales were worth £7bn in 2015 and the firm employs 7100 people across the UK.

This includes nearly 2000 people at a site in Crewe Toll, Edinburgh, designing and producing high-tech products based on airborne radar, advanced lasers and electro-optic systems.

Leonardo MW is a partner in the Eurofighter consortium and produces aircraft used by Saudi forces. While most UK production will be overseen by BAE Systems, Leonardo claims to have a 36 per cent share in the total programme- – 19 per cent for its aircraft division and the rest from its electronics division.

Leonardo also owns 25 per cent of an arms firm called MBDA which produces the Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles that are being used by Saudi forces.

MBDA sells its wares to over 90 countries.

Leonardo also produces communications systems, air surveillance drones and electronic systems and VIP helicopters. Earlier this month, Leonardo criticised the German Government’s decision to curb arms sales to Saudi.

Leonardo MW has produced laser targeting systems for F16 fighter jets, aircraft used by the Turkish military to bomb the city of Afrin in north-east Syria last year, an offensive described by critics as ethnic cleansing.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “These companies have not just profited from the terrible destruction of Yemen, they have actively enabled and facilitated it. Leonardo, Rolls Royce and Raytheon are multi-billion pound arms companies that arm and support dictatorships around the world, they need to be stopped, not showered with support and handouts from the Scottish government.

“Scottish Enterprise should be investing in the public good, not giving grants to companies that fuel war and conflict around the world.”

The Scottish Government just can’t help themselves. No matter how many times I’ve called on them to stop throwing public money and support at arms dealers, no matter how many times we show them the carnage these companies are unleashing, they give more and more. Ross Greer, Green MSP

Ross Greer MSP said: “The Scottish Government just can’t help themselves. No matter how many times I’ve called on them to stop throwing public money and support at arms dealers, no matter how many times we show them the carnage these companies are unleashing, they give more and more.

“Raytheon, the world’s largest guided missile manufacturer , are a multi-billion dollar, multinational corporation. Their products have been linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen, including the murder of forty two children on a school bus.

“What on Earth justifies the SNP handing them taxpayers’ cash when there are thousands of deserving small businesses across Scotland who could use it instead?”

A spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said: “We do not provide support for the manufacture of munitions. The aerospace, defence and marine sector in Scotland is very important to our economy and employs around 40,000 people.

“We work proactively with many companies in this sector to help them diversify their activities and grow and sustain employment.”

A spokeswoman for Rolls Royce said: “Rolls-Royce works with governments and respected NGOs to raise awareness on the need to promote responsibility in defence-related trade. This includes close dialogue with the UK, US, EU and other governments to assist them in maintaining relevant and effective export controls.

“As set out in our Code, Rolls-Royce acts with integrity and strictly abides by all national and international regulations that apply to our business.

Leonardo MW and Raytheon did not reply to our request for a comment.

We are very clear that, whilst it is a reserved matter, we expect the UK Government to properly police the export of arms and investigate whenever concerns are raised. However, it remains important to have appropriate defence and security capabilities maintained in Scotland. Scottish Government

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government does not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions – either directly or via Scottish Enterprise.

“The support provided is focused on helping firms to diversify and develop non-military applications for their technology and ensure Scotland continues to benefit from the thousands of jobs in the defence, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors.

“We are very clear that, whilst it is a reserved matter, we expect the UK Government to properly police the export of arms and investigate whenever concerns are raised. However, it remains important to have appropriate defence and security capabilities maintained in Scotland.”

Photo thanks to Felton Davis, CC BY 2.0

This article was also published in the Sunday Mail on May 5.

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