Norway offers Lossiemouth lifeline

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POLITICS…

SNP Westminster Leader and MP for Moray, Angus Robertson has been to Norway to explore the possibility of defence cooperation with the Nordic country as a way to secure the future of the threatened airbase at RAF Lossiemouth.

Mr Robertson’s meetings with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies and members of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) come as Defence Secretary Liam Fox attends a summit in the Norwegian capital to discuss regional co-operation, and just a week after the UK signed a defence co-operation agreement with France.

Speaking from Norway, Mr Robertson said:

“These have been encouraging discussions which reinforce the unique opportunity for defence cooperation across a number of shared areas of interest.

“While the Defence Secretary acknowledges the strategic challenges in the Arctic and the High North will be of significant importance together with the further development of defence cooperation, the decisions made in the defence review actually undermine these opportunities.

“If there is a genuine interest in cooperation with Nordic neighbours it surely makes sense to maintain RAF Lossiemouth as a northerly home for the Joint Combat Aircraft – allowing easy and cost effective transit to and from Norway and a capability commitment able to address the challenges facing the Arctic and the High North.

“The successful future of RAF Lossiemouth can be secured through cooperation with our Nordic neighbours if the right military facilities are maintained and vital capabilities such as maritime reconnaissance and fast-jet capability located in the best strategic location.

“The UK Ministry of Defence concluded in 2005 that RAF Lossiemouth was identified as the best option for a UK Joint Combat Aircraft base because it provided excellent access to training areas, modern facilities and was “most cost effective”.”

UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox is also in Oslo for talks he said were to ensure that “we deepen our bi-lateral relationship with” the Scandinavian country.

There are fears that Lossiemouth will lose out to RAF Marham in Norfolk when a decision is made on where the UK’s Tornado fleet should be based. Mr Fox said the to cut defence spending were the result of “the utterly poisonous economic legacy left by Labour”.

Norwegian media were reporting on the prospects for greater co-operation with other nations and highlighted their importance with global warming leading to possible future arguments over territorial claims on mineral rights, fishing and sea routes.