An Italian arms firm accused of complicity in alleged war crimes in Yemen and the “ethnic cleansing” of Kurds in Syria is trying to recruit school pupils in Edinburgh.

Leonardo is the ninth largest arms company in the world and employs nearly 2,000 people just outside Edinburgh.

The firm is a major contributor to the local economy and is now targeting school leavers to work on Typhoon jets which have been used by the Saudis in Yemen’s conflict, prompting critics to voice concerns over increasing links between the arms industry and Scottish schools.

When The Ferret raised these concerns with the City of Edinburgh Council, it promised to review the arrangement with Leonardo and to “re-evaluate” placements of school leavers with the company.

Leonardo has been condemned for its role in Yemen’s war and arms deals with Turkey, and concerns have been raised previously over public money being handed to a company which made a £440 million profit in 2018. The multinational has received nearly £20 million of taxpayers’ money in grants from Scottish Enterprise.

An advert for a software engineering apprenticeship with Leonardo says that recruits, once qualified, would work on radar systems for the Typhoon jet which has been used by Saudi forces in Yemen.

Leonardo is part of the Edinburgh Guarantee, a jobs programme for school leavers run by the City of Edinburgh Council. By participating in the project, the firm is entitled to free support and guidance from the council.

The company has also featured in school bulletins, including one sent to Edinburgh schools last month which advertises jobs for school leavers. An advert for a software engineering apprenticeship with Leonardo says that recruits, once qualified, would work on radar systems for the Typhoon jet, which has been used by Saudi forces in Yemen.

The Saudis have been accused of multiple breaches of international humanitarian laws in Yemen and last month human rights organisations filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, accusing arms firms of being party to these alleged war crimes.

Companies named in the complaint included Leonardo, BAE Systems, Raytheon and Thales, all of whom have received taxpayers’ money through grants from Scottish Enterprise.

Leonardo collaborates on the Eurofighter Typhoon with BAE Systems, warplanes which are used by the Saudis in Yemen.

The advert says: “At the end of the programme, you will work as a highly qualified member of our Software community developing software for technically advanced avionics systems such as the radar for the Typhoon jet.”

Leonardo has also made systems in Edinburgh for F16 fighter jets, which were used by Turkey against the Kurds in Syria.

Arms dealers’ school visits damned as ‘moral disgrace’

It emerged last month that at least 200 people have been killed since Turkey started its offensive against the Kurds in October, an operation branded as ethnic cleansing by critics.

The Ferret has previously highlighted concerns over arms’ companies creeping influence in Scotland’s classrooms.

An aim of Scottish Enterprise – the Scottish Government’s business arm – was to increase the aerospace, defence, marine and security sectors in Scotland by between six and 10 per cent by 2020.

A key part of the strategy is to encourage more young people to choose careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, known as STEM. Critics of the arms trade have questioned the motives of arms dealers teaching children, however, arguing they are trying to sanitise war in the pursuit of profit.

Leonardo has run a project for children called Robotic Games which was designed to promote STEM subjects.

BAE Systems – the third largest arms firm in the world – has given lessons to children on World War One. BAE Systems roadshow visited 420 schools including Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy High School, Davidson Mains Primary School in Edinburgh, and Dumbarton Academy.

US arms company, Raytheon, which makes smart bombs linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen, runs drone making projects in Fife schools and has taught in Scots schools at least 81 times.

These companies are putting more and more time and money into targeting schools students and young people. The arms dealers use lots of positive language to cover up the devastating impact that their weapons have. Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said it was “shameful” that the City of Edinburgh Council and schools in the city were providing a “promotional vehicle for a destructive and morally bankrupt company like Leonardo”.

“It has armed and supported human rights abusers while fuelling and profiting from war. The Typhoon jet that Leonardo is so proud of has played a central role in creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Smith added.

He urged ECC to stop its support for Leonardo. “Unfortunately this is not an isolated event,” he said. “These companies are putting more and more time and money into targeting schools students and young people. The arms dealers use lots of positive language to cover up the devastating impact that their weapons have.”

Ross Greer MSP, Scottish Greens education spokesperson, said: “Not only are Leonardo, arms dealer to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, receiving handouts of public cash from the Scottish Government, they’re actively recruiting in our schools as well.

“The Scottish Government likes to hail the ‘positive destinations’ of most school leavers, but putting our emerging talent to work developing technology which regimes like Saudi Arabia will use in their brutal attacks on civilians certainly isn’t something we want young Scots aspiring to.

“In a country with the massive marine and renewables potential that Scotland has, there should be no shortage of jobs in these industries of the future. Instead of throwing more public money and directing more talented young people at multinational arms dealers, the Scottish Government and local councils should spend their time and money delivering the kind of Scottish Green New Deal which would create those hundreds of thousands of quality, lasting jobs.”

SNP councillor Kate Campbell, Edinburgh’s convener of housing, homelessness and fair work, said: “The Edinburgh Guarantee has seen thousands of young people moving into work, education, or training, and has been successfully helping young people into positive destinations since 2011.

“With over 3,400 young people matched into jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities, the Edinburgh Guarantee plays an important role in allowing our young people to successfully achieve their first steps towards a secure future with more than 550 employers across the city contributing to this success.

“However we are concerned by the issues raised and will review activity associated with arms sales. We will immediately re-evaluate placements based on the outcomes of the review as it’s important to us that we place young people in the right environment for them to develop their skills and nurture their wellbeing.”

The Scottish Government pointed out that the export of arms was the responsibility of the UK government and it should “properly police such exports and to properly investigate any concerns raised”.

A government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government does not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions – either directly or via Scottish Enterprise.” Any support provided was focused on helping firms to diversify and develop non-military applications for their technology, the spokesperson added.

“For instance, funding to Leonardo supported the development of the Osprey radar system used by the Norwegian search and rescue service. This ensures Scotland continues to benefit from the thousands of jobs in the defence, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors.

“Human rights due diligence checks have now been fully rolled out and are a normal part of the Scottish Enterprise application process. This extends the due diligence checking on investment that is already taking place in Scotland.”

Photo thanks to iStock/dinosmichail

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