Moray MP and SNP Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has warned the UK Government of the “unparalleled economic and social dislocation” that would be caused by a double RAF base closure in Moray.
Speaking at Defence Questions, the SNP’s Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson warned Liam Fox of the serious consequences in Moray which is the most defence dependent economy in the UK.
Last week Mr Robertson held talks in the United States with the US Government authority that supports defence communities threatened with military base closures and downsizing. Mr Robertson heard at first hand from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) and Senator John Warner, the long-serving Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, about the support that the US government provides.
Speaking after raising concerns in the Commons, Mr Robertson described the closure of both bases as ‘unthinkable’ and attacked the London based coalition for offering no support.
Mr Robertson said:
“Moray is the most defence dependent economy in the UK and a double base closure would result in unparalleled economic and social dislocation.
“The closure of Kinloss is bad enough, but the impact of closing Lossiemouth as well would be unthinkable.
“It is staggering, given the scale of these closures, that the UK Government has prepared no support or economic package in advance of the defence announcement and nothing concrete has been delivered since.”
The SNP MP said that the uncertainty was already having a negative effect in the private sector that could lead to job losses and added:
“Massive uncertainty has been created and this is leading to tangible negative effects in the private sector. I fear that this will lead to significant civilian job losses even before decisions are made about military redundancies.
“The approach of the UK government has been reckless and is creating a dangerous vacuum and lack of confidence.
“UK Ministers must act swiftly to announce concrete support for Moray. Having had months to understand and anticipate the consequences of their decisions there is no excuse for prevarication and inaction.
“We are fighting hard to save RAF Lossiemouth and mitigate the impact of the announced closure of RAF Kinloss and the UK Government must recognise the responsibility that it has in this.”
Responding to Mr Robertson’s comments the Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox said that the decision would be taken on what was best for the United Kingdom and for the military.
Mr Fox said: “The primary purpose of the basing review is to get the best defence outcomes for the United Kingdom.
“Obviously, those who represent seats in the area, those who represent the Scottish Government, the Scottish Office and others will wish to make representations about some of the other aspects that will be involved in terms of social and economic impact.
“As far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned, our recommendations will be based on the military implications and what is best for the country as a whole.”
Between them Kinloss and Lossiemouth make an enormous contribution to the local area, supporting 5,710 jobs and contributing £158 million annually to the local economy. The threats to Lossiemouth come as the Tory/Lib Dem coalition wrestle with the huge financial deficit left behind by the last UK Labour government.