First Minister Alex Salmond has urged Scots to get behind the campaign to help the people of Moray after the UK Government’s Strategic Defence Review left the area facing devastation with the certain closure of one RAF base and threats hanging over the other.
The First Minister was speaking as community and business leaders from across Moray met with Scottish Government Ministers in Edinburgh as they bid to minimise the damage to their local economy.
It follows the publication of the UK Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which contained an eight per cent cut in defence spending and the cancellation of the Nimrod contract, sounding an uncertain future for RAF Kinloss and Lossiemouth.
The Moray Taskforce held talks with the First Minister, Finance Secretary and Rural Affairs Secretary to finalise a plan of action to minimise the impact of the potential closure of RAF Kinloss and fight for the retention of RAF Lossiemouth. The two bases make an enormous contribution to the local area, supporting 5,710 jobs and contributing £158 million annually to the local economy.
SNP Ministers have requested a date for a new meeting with the UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox, as promised when the Scottish party leaders met with Mr Fox earlier this month, and will continue to press the UK Government to honour their pledge to engage fully with communities before final decisions are made.
Speaking after the constructive meeting at St Andrew’s House, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“A week after the SDSR was published many unanswered questions remain for the people of Moray, the lack of clarity on what the UK Government is actually proposing is a real cause for concern.
“Today’s meeting was an opportunity for community and business leaders to update Ministers on their plans to fight for the future of the RAF bases in Moray. Community and business leaders have moved quickly to form a Moray Taskforce to assist people directly affected by the proposed Kinloss closure, retain skills in the area and, critically, campaign to save the threatened Lossiemouth base.
“We stand ready to support them every step of the way and have already provided considerable expertise to help co-ordinate the campaign. We are also pressing the UK Government to honour its pledge to engage fully with communities before final decisions are made, that is the very least that Scotland’s defence industry and the people of Moray deserve.
“We are also considering what can be learned from the use of the Office of Economic Adjustment in the United States which provides a range of support for people affected by base closure and realignment. The OEA provides a useful model in demonstrating how a collaborative approach can help to empower communities and minimise negative impacts in similar situations. We are commending this approach to the Ministry of Defence.
“We will not take this lying down. Scotland’s strong track record of partnership working and doing what it takes to preserve local jobs and build a sustainable future will be invaluable. This is not just about Moray and is a national issue of national importance.”
Moray Council Convener, Councillor George McIntyre, said:
“The withdrawal of the RAF from Kinloss leaves the base vulnerable to closure. The MoD have suggested that the base could be used as an army base and we will make a strong case to secure this outcome sooner rather than the 2015 date suggested by the PM. Even if Kinloss is maintained as an army base, there will be a devastating affect on the local community and economy, as the number and spending power of personnel will be greatly reduced.
“In addition, we passionately believe that RAF Lossiemouth should be home to the UK’s Tornados. To close RAF Lossiemouth would be catastrophic for an area for which defence has been a vital component for 70 years. Together the RAF bases represent around a quarter of Scotland’s defence footprint.
“Analysis is ongoing by officials in HIE and the Scottish Government to strengthen the case for RAF Lossiemouth. The case consists of economic, social and defence elements and we intend to make a compelling argument to the MoD across all three aspects. We are also seeking cross-party support from all of Scotland’s main political party leaders to strengthen the case for RAF Lossiemouth.”
Moray RAF bases make a significant contribution to the population and economic prosperity of the area, collectively supporting 5,710 FTE jobs in the local economy, some 16 per cent of all FTE employment within Moray. Gross income from the bases is estimated at around £158 million per annum. RAF households account for 7 per cent of the total population of Moray.
RAF Kinloss offers direct employment to 1,276 FTE military personnel (89 per cent male); 254 FTE civilian employees (most of whom live quite near to the base); 102.7 FTE other on-site employment jobs (aviation related contractors, MoD technical divisions – Defence Estates and Defence Estates Housing; and other organisations such as the prime contractors to the MoD technical divisions). Total of 1,632.7 FTE with total gross income of £54.5 million.
RAF Lossiemouth offer direct employment to 1919 FTE military personnel (including 98 reservists); 288 FTE civilian employees; 196.6 FTE other on-site employment jobs (aviation related contractors, MoD technical divisions – Defence Estates and Defence Estates Housing; and other organisations such as the prime contractors to the MoD technical divisions). Total of 2,404.3 FTE with total gross income of £72.2 million. There are approximately 2000 spouses and dependants of RAF personnel living in Moray.
List of Attendees
- Alex Salmond, First Minister
- John Swinney, Finance Secretary
- Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs Secretary
- Ian Urquhart, Johnstons of Elgin & Johnstons of Elgin
- Lesley Ann Parker, Chamber of Commerce
- Mike Duncan, Federation of Small Businesses
- Alastair Kennedy, Chair of Joint Community Councils
- George McIntyre, Convenor, Moray Council
- Eileen Bush, Voluntary Action Moray
- Alastair Keddie, Chief Executive, Moray Council
- Calum MacPherson, Highlands & Islands Enterprise
- Anthony Standing, Skills Development Scotland