MoD accused of ‘gross vandalism’ after billions lost junking Nimrod

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By a Newsnet reporter

The MoD have been accused of negligence and “gross vandalism” over the management of assets and public funds after a parliamentary question revealed UK Ministers had recouped just £500,000 in scrap value after junking the £3.8bn Nimrod fleet.

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP asked Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, what were the costs to the public purse of dismantling the Nimrod aircraft.

Mr Luff’s answer revealed that almost the entire £3.8bn spent to develop the project and construct the aircraft had been wasted.

Mr Luff replied: “The Nimrod MRA4 airframes were dismantled on the Ministry of Defence’s behalf by Metal and Waste Recycling Ltd at a cost of around £500,000.  As part of the contractual arrangements with the company, the MoD received receipts from the sale of the dismantled airframes to the value of just over £1 million.”

Mr Robertson warned that the true cost may be even greater given that the destruction of the maritime reconnaissance fleet had created security and safety implications that the government has failed to address.

Scotland has been particularly badly affected by cuts in defence.  According to some defence analysts, the country is now dangerously exposed leaving Scotland with a defence capability inferior to that of countries such as the Republic of Ireland or Denmark. 

The SNP claim that the defence cuts prove that Scotland would be better off controlling its own defence strategy instead of leaving it to Westminster, and give lie to the myth that Scotland would have better defences within the UK.

There are growing rumours amongst service personnel that the MoD is deliberately running down the armed services’ presence in Scotland in the run up to the independence referendum in order to remove personnel and equipment from Scotland and ensure that they will remain under Westminster control in the event of Scottish independence.  

However the MoD says that there is no such plan.  Giving evidence recently to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee the Armed Forces Minister, the Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey, denied that the MoD had any contingency plans for defence if Scotland votes for independence.  

The MoD has a history of poor economic judgement and short-term thinking.  Mr Robertson also highlighted how, in just three years, the MoD have sold-off or junked in excess of £17bn worth of land, property and equipment, leaving major capability gaps.

Mr Robertson said:

“The destruction of these state-of-the-art aircraft was an act of gross vandalism.

“After spending £3.8 billion of public money on Nimrod the paltry scrap value recouped by the MoD adds insult to injury. But the scandalous destruction of Nimrod is not a one off – it is just another chapter in a catalogue of crazy decisions by the MoD who, over the last three years, have sold-off or junked in excess of £17bn worth of assets.

“Many of the decommissioned Harrier jump jets sold to the US Navy for a knock-down price in 2011 had recently undergone refits, with US Rear Admiral Mark Heinrich, chief of the US Navy’s supply corps saying: ‘We’re taking advantage of all the money the Brits have spent on them. It’s like we’re buying a car with maybe 15,000 miles on it. These are very good platforms.’

“With Nimrod the true cost may be even greater given that their destruction has created security and safety implications that the government has never addressed.

“It has become obvious that the decision to scrap Nimrod was based on cost cutting rather than strategic needs.  Whether its national events like the Olympics or everyday missions such as maritime reconnaissance and rescues there is now a mammoth capability gap and lives are at risk.

“The UK is making really bad decisions for defence in Scotland which leave big capability gaps. We should make better defence decisions in Scotland and not leave it to London.”