An Ayrshire firm making explosives told Scottish Enterprise that munitions were a “key growth area” when applying for taxpayers’ money, calling into question claims by the business agency that it does not fund the arms industry.

Chemring Energetics, based in Stevenston, is part of Chemring Group, a global arms company which sold tear gas to Egypt and Hong Kong and last week attended a controversial arms fair in London dubbed a “festival of violence”.

Documents seen by The Ferret reveal that Chemring Energetics specified in grants applications made in 2009 and 2017 that funding was required to support site expansion for the production of explosives.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise have repeatedly said that they do not fund munitions and that grants are awarded to companies to diversify away from arms. But critics of the arms trade say the newly released documents challenge those claims.

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A 2009 application by Chemring to help the firm expand at its Ardeer site in Stevenston, identified a gap in the market for the manufacture of explosives. The application also stated that “key growth will be in munitions”.

In 2017 Chemring sought funding for a graduate placement scheme, telling Scottish Enterprise that it wanted to employ a person to focus on “product and process improvement of an existing product to support strategic growth of a range of pyromechanical products”.

The application added that “product applications” to benefit from the proposed project included “automotive, aerospace, and defence (missile batteries, safety and arming devices, actuators, etc)”. This product range was described by Chemring in its application to Scottish Enterprise as “a key growth area”.

The documents were released by Scottish Enterprise to the Scottish Greens following a request under freedom of information law. “The Scottish Government has claimed time and time again that they do not support the manufacture of munitions, yet here we have a project that specifies munitions and explosives as the growth market being supported,” said Scottish Green MSP, Ross Greer.

“It is hard to see how Scottish Enterprise can justify funding this arms company. The SNP must stop using public money to fund arms dealers. We need all public funding to pull in the same direction, to tackle the climate emergency and build a jobs-rich future for all through a Scottish Green New Deal.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade argued the documents raised “serious questions for the Scottish Government” about how public money is being spent. “One thing we can be sure about is that public money should never have been given to a company as morally bankrupt as Chemring,” he said.

“Chemring is first and foremost an arms company, and its weapons have been used in crackdowns around the world. By giving it money the Scottish Government is enabling it to carry on with its terrible work. Those impacts won’t necessarily be felt by people in Scotland, but the weapons being developed could do a lot of harm for years to come.”

Smith added: “If it wants to ensure it is working in the public good then Scottish Enterprise must be totally transparent about what its money has been used for, and guarantee that not another penny will be given to Chemring, or any other company that is fuelling conflict and repression.”

Scottish Enterprise said that the total amount paid out to Chemring in grants over the period 2007 to 2018 was £196,355. The funding was provided for projects encompassing business improvement to market development and training and no projects were in relation to the manufacture or export of munitions, the business agency insisted.

“As repeatedly stated, we do not support the manufacture or export of munitions. References to explosives and munitions in the documents shared under freedom of information refer to general market opportunities and wider Chemring activities and not the specific projects funded,” a spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said.

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The Scottish Government declined to comment and referred The Ferret to Scottish Enterprise. Chemring Energetics did not respond to our requests for a comment.

Chemring Group is based in Hampshire, England, and has locations in the US, Norway, UAE and Australia. Its business segments are countermeasures, sensors, and energetics which includes components for missiles, bombs and torpedoes.

It emerged in 2011 that tear gas used by Egyptian police against Tahir Square demonstrators was manufactured by Chemring. In 2014 protesters in Hong Kong were attacked with Chemring tear gas and CS grenades used in a June 2019 crackdown by police on protesters in Hong Kong looked similar to those produced by Chemring.

Chemring Energetics applied for arms export licences for Brazil for explosives in 2015 and 2012, and for military aircraft components in 2013. In September Chemring Group announced four contracts to supply the US navy and air force with countermeasures such as flares and decoys, worth up to £102 million.

The documents released by Scottish Enterprise

Photo thanks to Chemring.

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