First Minister fights for Scottish air bases


First Minister Alex Salmond today met Defence Secretary Liam Fox to set out the case for Scotland to retain both RAF Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth.

The impact of the UK Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on Scotland’s defence footprint was discussed in detail at the talks in London.

The Review has already effectively signalled the closure of RAF Kinloss in Moray due to the cancellation of the Nimrod contract. Media speculation in recent months has also suggested that RAF Leuchars in Fife is facing an uncertain future, while the prospects for RAF Lossiemouth in Moray also hang in the balance.

Speaking after meeting with Mr Fox, the First Minister said:

“The people of Moray and Fife have been pleading with the MoD and UK Government for clarity on this issue for months but to no avail. I share their concerns about how the process is being handled – especially as Scotland has already suffered due to the cancellation of the Nimrod contract which was a hammer blow for the people of Moray.

“While the Scottish Government has taken decisive action – announcing financial support to help cope with the fall-out of the UK Government’s decision and co-ordinating the campaign to protect RAF Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth from closure – the response from London to date has been very disappointing.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that the uncertainty and speculation surrounding Scotland’s bases is already starting to have a negative impact on the local economies. Of course tough decisions are unavoidable in the challenging financial climate, but they must be proportionate and fair.

“The UK Government needs to wake up to the fact that there are far-reaching consequences for Moray and Fife at stake. Following the lack of transitional support for those employed at RAF Kinloss, we need assurances that a substantial increase to the UK Rapid Response Fund will be forthcoming.

“Although initially it appeared that Moray would bear the brunt of the impact of the SDSR, there are clearly implications for the rest of Scotland, with media speculation suggesting RAF Leuchars in Fife could potentially be in the firing line.

“We are continuing to work closely with Fife Council and other key partners to support the campaign to save RAF Leuchars. Scotland has already suffered a major blow and made a significant sacrifice through RAF Kinloss – the people who rely on our surviving bases will not accept any further setbacks.”

The UK Strategic Defence and Security Strategy, published in October 2010, has a number of immediate implications for Scotland. In many cases the implications for Scotland remain unclear and there is an urgent need for further clarification and detailed proposals both in relation to the timing of further announcements and in relation to any support which will be forthcoming from the MoD and the UK Government.

The First Minister wrote to Dr Fox immediately following the publication of the SDSR and asked for a follow-up meeting. A meeting was arranged for December, but was cancelled due to the severe weather. Scottish Government officials have written to MoD officials seeking clarification on a number of other more detailed points.

The Scottish Government continues to take an active role in supporting Moray where the impact is already being felt, and in coordinating the efforts to assess the potential implications and consequences of those decisions still outstanding. We have also taken steps to provide similar levels of support to Fife, where recent media speculation has arisen concerning the future of RAF Leuchars.

Scottish Government officials are working with Fife Council, Scottish Enterprise, Fife Chamber of Commerce and local MSPs and MPs to demonstrate all-party support for the retention of RAF Leuchars. An initial economic analysis has been undertaken, however Fife Council and partners require detailed baseline information from the Ministry of Defence to develop a full economic impact analysis.

Scotland has lost more than 10,000 defence jobs since 1997, while over that same period the UK Government has spent £5.6 billion less on defence in Scotland than its fair share of MoD spending.