Arms firms with factories in Scotland who sell weaponry to Turkey have been given nearly £15 million of taxpayers’ money by Scottish Enterprise, The Ferret can reveal.
Over the past two weeks Turkey has been accused of enacting a “brutal ethnic cleansing campaign” in northeast Syria with its offensive against Kurdish fighters who fought against Islamic State.
Critics of the arms trade have criticised the assault and called for an end to “public handouts to Turkey’s arms dealers”. They have also accused the Scottish Government of hypocrisy for condemning the invasion when its business agency has funded arms companies selling products to the Turks.
Arms multinationals with factories in Scotland awarded grants by Scottish Enterprise include Leonardo MW, formerly called Selex, which employs almost 2000 people at Crewe Toll, Edinburgh.
Leonardo MW is the ninth largest arms firm in the world with profits of £440m in 2018. It has received £13,810,225 from Scottish Enterprise since 2007.
The Italian arms giant has produced laser targeting systems for F16 fighter jets which have been used by the Turks against the Kurds. Leonardo has also sold attack helicopters to Turkey.
BAE Systems has received £616,748 from Scottish Enterprise since 2007. The UK defence firm signed a £100m fighter jet deal with Turkey in 2017 and is working alongside Rolls Royce to develop a new fighter jet for Turkish Airforce, the TFX Fighter. BAE also produces components for the F-16.
US arms firm Lockheed Martin – the world’s largest arms company – has received £176,615 for “business improvement”, “innovation” “marketing” and “organisational development”.
Turkey’s Air Force primarily uses Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter aircraft from the US. Lockheed Martin has provided a huge array of weaponry for Turkey including fighter jets and Hellfire II missiles. According to the Center for International Policy, Turkey maintains 333 combat aircraft, including the F-5 and F-16.
French firm Thales – which employs more than 700 people at two sites in Glasgow – has received £204,992 from Scottish Enterprise since 2007. Thales works closely with the Turkish navy in particular, including combat systems.
The grants to the firms since 2007 were listed by Scottish Enterprise in response to a request under freedom of information law, and totalled £14,808,580. Thales, Leonardo, and BAE Systems all receive free account management services from Scottish Enterprise as well.
A five-day temporary ceasefire was agreed between Turkey and Kurdish forces last week although skirmishes have continued in recent days.
On 22 October Turkey and Russia agreed what they said is a “historic” deal aimed at keeping Kurdish forces away from Syria’s border with Turkey. Under the deal, Syrian and Russian forces will immediately oversee a withdrawal of Kurdish forces.
After Turkey began its operation a fortnight ago, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said President Trump’s actions were “reprehensible” and added: “Can I say very clearly and very strongly, that I and the Scottish Government are deeply concerned and strongly opposed to Turkey’s unilateral military action in northern Syria.
“I’m also extremely concerned by Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw support and leave Kurdish allies to the mercy of whatever Turkey chooses to do. I think that is particularly reprehensible given the sacrifices the Kurds have made in helping to defeat Isis.”
Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer accused the SNP of hypocrisy. “Our Kurdish allies are the victims of a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by a regime buying its military equipment from the UK,” he said.
“The First Minister rightly condemned the invasion when the Greens asked her to and called for a strong international response. Unless the SNP want to look like hypocrites, they must immediately end the public handouts to Turkey’s arms dealers.”
Greer added: “Their claims that the money is for diversification have repeatedly failed to stand up to scrutiny. These multi-billion pound corporations don’t need Scottish taxpayers’ money and we certainly don’t want anything to do with the trail of death and destruction they leave across the world.”
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “The attacks on northern Syria has to be a turning point for Downing Street, which has armed and supported Erdogan’s regime. But it must also lead to change in Holyrood. The Scottish Government should not be giving public money to companies that have armed human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships while fuelling war around the world.”
He added: “Companies like Leonardo, BAE and Raytheon don’t care about how their weapons are used, or the people they are used against. All they care about is selling as many weapons and possible and boosting their profits. The Scottish Government does not have the power to regulate where arms are sold, but it can end its financial support for the companies that are selling them.
“It’s long past time for Scottish Enterprise to set a positive precedent by adopting an ethical business policy and ending its support for those that profit from war and conflict.”
A spokesperson from Scottish Enterprise said: “As repeatedly stated, we do not support the manufacture or export of munitions from Scotland. Our work involves helping companies diversify into non-military, civilian applications.”
BAE Systems said: “We are committed to ensuring that our people have the tools, training and technologies to help them reach their career potential. To do this we work with a number of organisations to support the continued investment in their futures by making improvements to our working environment and facilities that help deliver the next generation products and services that our customers deserve.”
Leanardo MW and Thales did not reply to our request for comments.
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.”
The UK government said last week it would continue selling arms to Turkey but will not grant new export licences for weapons which might be used in military operations in Syria.
Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels launched the offensive in northern Syria to create a “safe zone” where up to two million Syrian refugees can be resettled.
The Turkish operation came after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from the area. His move represented a shift in US policy as Kurdish-led forces have been a critical ally of the US in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. There are fears the destabilisation could lead to a jihadist resurgence.
A fortnight ago 33 Scots MSPs jointly wrote to the US ambassador to express their alarm after Turkey launched its offensive.
Information released by Scottish Enterprise
Photo thanks to iStock/CatEyePerspective