THE best days still lie ahead for Govan shipyard, as the first of five new frigates being built at the site got underway, according to a UK minister.

The steel-cutting ceremony took place for HMS Birmingham, the first of five ships in the second batch of Type 26 frigates being built for the Royal Navy at the yard.

The £4.2 billion contract will secure thousands of jobs for the next decade and beyond with owners BAE investing £150m in a new ship hall to build the five vessels.

 Read here how the Glasgow Times reported on the announcement of the contract being reported

Alex Chalk, UK defence procurement minister, said it was difficult to see how England could build these ships without Scotland.

He said: “Let me tell you this, 10 years ago there was a question mark about shipbuilding in Scotland.

“There are no such question marks now. Shipbuilding is secure in Scotland and for decades to come.”

When asked if the last of the five ships would still be built on the Clyde, should Scotland be independent by then, he said Scottish yards were vital to the UK manufacturing capability.

Mr Chalk said: “I’m not here to talk about the constitutional arrangements, I think Scotland’s place in the union is secure and what I want to celebrate is the ingenuity of the Scottish shipbuilders who come here together.

“This is a classic example of how the four nations of the United Kingdom are more than the sum of our parts. 

"Frankly, how would England be able to build these without the might of Scotland?

“I’m pleased to be able to say the lights of Scottish shipbuilding are burning brighter than ever and if one thing is crystal clear is the ability of those lights to burn as brightly as possible is enhanced by Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.”

The minister added: “This isn’t just any old yard whose best days are behind it. This is a yard whose best days are still to come. It is becoming one of the most competitive yards anywhere in the world.

“I hope people locally will take some quiet pride in that.”

The three ships, from phase one, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff, are already underway in various stages in the Glasgow yards.

Birmingham is the first of the next five, in an order secured last year.

The submarine-hunting warships are the most advanced of their type with a Sea Ceptor missile defence system, able to destroy airborne and sea surface targets.

The ships are 150 metres long, almost the length of three Olympic swimming pools, and with a top speed of more than 26 knots and a range of more than 7000 nautical miles, the vessels will also be capable of countering piracy and delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief.