The City of Edinburgh Council, and the“ethical manner” of Leonardo UK.

Formally known as Ferranti, Leonardo’s operation was established in Edinburgh in 1943 to manufacture Gyro Gunsights for the Spitfire,

The City of Edinburgh Council runs a scheme called the “Edinburgh Guarantee”. This scheme has matched over 3,400 young people with jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities with 550 employers since it started.

One of those companies is Leonardo. Formally known as Ferranti, Leonardo employs approximately 1,800 people in Edinburgh who specialise in “the provision of multi-role surveillance radars and countermeasure systems”. This includes radar for the Typhoon, Norway’s all-weather search and rescue helicopters, the US Coast Guard and for Saab’s Gripen Fighter aircraft.

Without any justification, it was alleged in Full Council yesterday that Leonardo had been  “condemned” (it was not said by who) for its role in the Yemen War and arms deals with Turkey. It was also suggested, again without any evidence, that Leonardo may not be providing the “right environment needed” to develop skills and “promote the  wellbeing” of its employees. The suggestion was that the Council should review Leonardo to ensure if behaved in an “ethical manner”, and consider preventing people working with them via the Edinburgh Guarantee. Indeed, in summing up his debate Councillor Alex Staniforth (Craigentinny / Duddingston Ward) used the word “evil” four times in one minute.

I accept that nations have a right to defend themselves, and that governments have a duty to stop weapons falling into the wrong hands, or being used in illegal wars. I was left wondering, however, what the aim of the discussion in Full Council was.

We know that the Scottish Government provides assistance to arms manufacturers (including those involved in the Yemen), but no concerns were raised about that. We know that Leonardo is a key part of the Edinburgh economy, but no concerns were raised about that. We know that the UK Government sets export controls and licensing for military and dual-use items (not the Council!), but no concerns were raised about that. Indeed, no link was made between Leonardo’s Edinburgh operation, the Edinburgh Guarantee and the awful conflict in the Yemen.

I would have backed the call if the review was to look at the wellbeing of staff in all the Edinburgh Guarantee employers, but that was blocked. Although I respect and understand the concerns people may have about companies like Leonardo, I fully expect they are a good employer who care about the wellbeing of their staff and how their products are used.

It was notable that many of those who backed the calls for Leonardo to be reviewed (including Councillor Alex Staniforth) are members of parties who backed Holyrood budgets which gave millions of pounds to arms manufacturers. Perhaps blocking that should come before limiting the career choices of young people? Or if the Council thinks Leonardo is not welcome in Edinburgh, perhaps it should just say so?

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