A radar funded by Scottish Enterprise was marketed to countries with poor records on human rights at one of the world’s largest arms fairs.
The radar is also used in military helicopters, however, calling into question claims by Scottish Enterprise that it only awards grants to arms firms to make non-military products.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly insisted that its business agency only gives grants to help arms companies to diversify production. Scottish Enterprise has given nearly £20 million of taxpayers’ money in grants to Leonardo, which made £440 million profit in 2018.
The Scottish Government said its funding to Leonardo was to support the “development of the Osprey radar system used by the Norwegian search and rescue service”.
But the Osprey 30 is also used by the US Navy on its MQ-8C Fire Scout, which is deployed in combat missions. Leonardo markets the radar to special forces around the world and it is used on the AW149 military helicopter.
At the DSEI industry arms fair in London last September, Osprey was presented as part of a military display and fitted on a combat helicopter alongside anti-tank missiles, rockets and gun pods, and door-mounted machine guns.
DSEI is Europe’s biggest arms fair. Guests of the UK government included military delegations from states with poor human rights records such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Eric Chester, chairman of the Scottish Peace Network, said: “The Scottish Government has big questions to answer. If human rights are one of its considerations, then why was this radar being promoted to human rights-abusing regimes at an arms fair?”
He added: “Real diversification means developing peaceful civilian products, not offering millions of pounds worth of funding for military technology.
“The Scottish Government owes the people of Scotland a full explanation for allocating the funds to huge, profitable arms makers such as Leonardo.
“The words inscribed on the mace in the Scottish Parliament are ‘wisdom’, ‘justice’, ‘compassion’ and ‘integrity’. We urge the Government to do all it can to live up to those values. An important step must be for it to stop funding companies that profit from war and conflict.”
Green MSP, Ross Greer, said: “Yet again we have concrete evidence that public money is being used by a Scottish Government agency to support the development and marketing of weapons technology which is sold to the most brutal regimes on the planet.
“But every time another damning story of government funding for the arms trade comes to light, Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers re-use the same unconvincing smoke and mirrors routine to explain it away.
“How many times does this SNP government’s underhand support for global arms dealers need to be highlighted before they end it? Tens of millions of pounds of public money and other freebies are being handed to multi-billion pound arms dealers, instead of being invested in the kind of jobs we really need to create here in Scotland.”
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Public money should be used for the public good, not to develop military equipment to be marketed to human rights abusers and dictatorships. The regimes that attend DSEI are going there for one reason – and that is to buy weapons.
“Funding the development of military radars is not diversification. What else is Scottish Enterprise spending public money on?
“It’s time for transparency. The Scottish Government must publish all of the details about what arms companies it has given money to and what projects that money has been used to fund.”
Scottish Enterprise said: “We provided Leonardo with research and development grant funding in support of the diversification of its business. This included the development of the Osprey radar solution, which was first utilised by Norway’s search and rescue services in line with our policy of helping companies in the aerospace, defence and marine sector develop civilian applications for their technologies.
“However, if the technology has the potential to support security and safety efforts, for example on the version of the MQ-8C configured for protective surveillance, then it could be deployed in that capacity. We work closely with the companies we support to ensure the projects we part-fund are delivered in line with the expected economic impacts.”
The support provided is focused on helping firms to diversify and develop non-military applications for their technology. Scottish Government spokesperson
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The export of arms is the responsibility of the UK government and we expect them to properly police such exports and to properly investigate any concerns raised.
“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.
“Human rights are part of the Scottish Enterprise application process, which extends the due diligence checking on investment decisions that was already taking place in Scotland.”
Leonardo did not reply to our request for a comment.