Shipworkers leave the BAE systems yard at Govan on the river Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland (Reuters)

BAE shipyard workers in the UK have been told the defence giant will scrap more than 1,700 jobs over the next three years.

The company disclosed that 940 posts and 170 agency workers will be slashed at the manufacturer's Portsmouth site.

In addition, 835 jobs will be cut in Govan and Scotstoun, on the River Clyde in Glasgow, and Rosyth in Fife and at the firm's Filton office, near Bristol.

In total, BAE plans to scrap 1,775 jobs which resulted from the completion of work on the building of two new aircraft carriers and from a huge increase in the costs of that project.

But some of the jobs being lost may be offset by a contract to build the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

"We have held two days of constructive discussions with our Trade Unions," said a spokeswoman for BAE.

She added: "This is the start of an extensive consultation process and we are committed to working tirelessly together to explore all potential options to mitigate the impact of our proposals on our employees. It is inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

The defence contractor said it would begin searching for voluntary redundancies from 18 November.

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond stressed, during First Minister's Questions in Holyrood, that it will be a "big challenge" to find jobs for the workers, but reassured that "resolve will be there".