First Minister Alex Salmond will be joined by the three leaders of Scotland’s other main political parties in a march and the rally calling for the RAF base at Lossiemouth to be retained in the UK government’s ongoing strategic defence review.
Sunday’s event will begin at Muirton Road – only yards from the main entrance to the RAF base – and end with a rally at Grant Park, the home of Lossiemouth FC.
The air station is home to four Tornado squadrons and is the RAF’s biggest fast-jet base. It supports more than 3,300 jobs and is worth more than 90 million pounds a year to the economy of the area.
There are fears that the RAF’s entire fleet of Tornado GR4s could be destined for Marham in Norfolk – a move that would almost inevitably lead to the closure of Lossiemouth.
Moray Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and community and business organisations have moved quickly to counter the threat to the base with the setting up of a Moray Taskforce which has pledged to do everything possible to ensure the station’s future.
The FM said:
“We intend to make the UK government and the Ministry of Defence sit up and listen to the people of Moray and Scotland. It is obvious that the Westminster government must do more to support the most defence dependent community in the UK in its hour of need. This goes far beyond Moray. It is a national issue of national importance to Scotland. The strength of feeling has been graphically illustrated by the tens of thousands of people who have signed up to the campaign to save the bases.
“I will be proud to march alongside community and business representatives and the families of our brave servicemen to highlight that a quarter of Scotland’s defence footprint and 70 years of history cannot be allowed to disappear. I am pleased that the other main party leaders have put differences aside to help make the strongest possible case for Scotland’s defence industry and the communities they support.”
Labour’s Holyrood group leader Iain Gray said:
“Over a month ago I called on the First Minister and other party leaders to join with me and trades unions in a cross-party campaign to save the carrier contracts at Rosyth and Scotstoun. We saved them and now we must fight for the people of Moray.
“Let us be quite clear. These are not strategic decisions. They are cuts that will rip the heart out of the whole country. The people of Moray deserve the support and solidarity of the whole of Scotland in fighting for their community.”
Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said:
“Moray has a proud history of welcoming Britain’s armed services to its community and of its people working alongside our UK military personnel. Sadly, given the scale of the deficit, the defence review could not be pain free.
“I fully understand the fears and worries of the people of Moray and I urge our governments to work with the local community and local council to chart a way forward and to identify opportunities.
“Moray is an area of resilience, with skilled and talented people, and we must do everything we can to help them through this challenging period. I have personally contacted both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Scottish Conservatives will continue to make the case for Scotland. It will be an honour to meet with, and march with, the people of Moray on Sunday.”
Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said:
“I am delighted to be part of Sunday’s rally. So many local jobs and local people’s futures depend on RAF Lossiemouth. I want both to listen to local people and show my support by joining the day.”
Lossiemouth councillor David Stewart said the march and rally would give people the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and present a united front in calling for the base to be spared.
“Closing the base would affect the lives and the livelihoods of thousands of people – ordinary people – and that is a message that can’t be repeated often enough.
“The fact that all four Scottish party leaders will be taking part in the march and rally shows just how important RAF Lossiemouth is to Scotland and we want the public to join them in sending a loud and clear message to the Ministry of Defence and the UK government that the base must be saved.”