Cuts to maritime support will lead to gaps warns report

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  Concerns raised by the SNP over UK government cuts to maritime surveillance capabilities have been echoed in a highly critical report published by the Defence Select Committee today.

The report highlights serious concerns – raised within a detailed submission by the SNP to the inquiry – over MoD capability gaps following the decision to scrap the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft programme.

The report was welcomed by SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said who described the cutbacks imposed by the UK Government on a “maritime nation” as “unbelievable” that would lead to “inadequate surveillance capabilities”.

Mr Robertson added:

“It is a decision that leaves huge military and civilian capability gaps and has the potential to put lives at risk.

“No example better illustrates the bad decisions that the MoD is making than the decision to scrap the Nimrod fleet.  After spending billions on their renewal, the destruction of these state-of-the-art aircraft was an act of gross vandalism and a scandalous waste of public money.

“Whether its national events like the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games or everyday missions such as maritime reconnaissance and rescues there is now a mammoth capability gap.”

The MP for Moray highlighted the recent episode that saw a Russian aircraft carrier moored just offshore from RAF Kinloss with no Royal Navy vessel within 500 miles.

“…we witnessed the unedifying and panicked response of the MoD as it dispatched a lone frigate steaming north from the south east coast.  It would not have been lost on the Russian Navy that there were no Nimrods to conduct basic and vital monitoring of the Russian carrier as it dumped rubbish into the Moray Firth.” he said.

Mr Robertson continued: “The UK is now the only country not to have such capabilities amongst our near neighbours and is now reliant on others to perform basic military tasks such as it had to in Libya.

“The principle of countries working together on military issues is good.  Indeed, this sort of cooperation is not unusual or new amongst many other countries.  France and Germany and the Scandinavian countries have a long history of working together successfully.

“Cooperation is not a substitute for capabilities however, and what this agreement does not do is fill the capability gap which has been created by the decisions in the strategic defence review to scrap Nimrod, and which has left the UK without its vital maritime reconnaissance fleet.

“The UK is making really bad defence decisions leaving Scotland exposed.  We should make better defence decisions ourselves in Scotland – we only need to look to our northern European neighbours of comparable size all of whom maintain appropriate military capabilities including fast jets, ocean going vessels and highly trained personnel.”