A MULTIBILLION-pound order to protect the long-term future of the shipbuilding industry in Scotland is expected to be either cut or dropped entirely in the Prime Minister’s upcoming defence review.

Two years after former prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans to build five new Type 32 frigates in a bid to make the UK “the foremost naval power in Europe”, the project looks set to stall and put thousands of jobs at risk, according to The Times.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) insiders told the newspaper ships are unlikely to survive the spring defence review as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt attempts to balance the nation’s books.

Hunt has already dumped proposals made by Rishi Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss to boost defence spending to 3% of GDP.

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Work on the £2.5 billion new frigates was expected to ramp up at Rosyth shipyard from 2028 and was expected to employ more than 1200 jobs.

It was also hoped it would keep thousands of jobs afloat in the wider supply chain for most of the following decade.

Existing work on Type 26 frigates at BAE Systems Clyde yards and Type 31 frigates at Babcock’s Rosyth yard peaks in the second half of this decade and then starts to wind down, industry executives have said.

This had led to fears of job losses in Scotland’s shipbuilding industry if the Type 32 project comes to a halt.

Last November, the National Audit Office revealed that navy chiefs had withdrawn their plans for the Type 32 frigates “because of concerns about affordability”.

MoD insiders have said it will be up to Rishi Sunak to put the money back in the budget when the defence review comes around in March.

One senior naval officer said: “If we put more money for the Type 32 then we will have to take it away from other projects.

“There is not enough money anymore to pay for everything. Something has got to give and we don’t need the Type 32 right now.”

Babcock has opened a new frigate assembly hangar at Rosyth to build Type 31s but this could lie idle for years if the Type 32 is either cut or delayed.

The MoD refused to comment on the outcome of the defence review although said the plans for Type 32s were still under review and ship numbers were not yet confirmed.

It said: “The Type 32 is planned after the Type 31 at the end of the decade. Its design and capabilities will depend on what the navy’s needs are at the middle of the decade and the number of ships will depend on whether Type 31 and Type 26 remain within budget.

“The strategic and long-term investments continue to be on track and will increase the capability and size of the fleet.”

A GMB national officer told The Times he had concerns for the effect on jobs in Scotland. He said: “We are concerned at the potential for slippage on the programme and the effect on work streams in Scotland.

“The government must ensure Type 32 is a priority and deliver the steady drumbeat of work that our industry needs to thrive.”