by a Newsnet Reporter
The SNP has warned that Scotland faces a massive reduction in RAF placement when the UK coalition government announces the result of its defence review this week.
The review announcement is expected tomorrow (Monday), and the Scottish National Party is warning against what are expected to be “massive and disproportionate” cuts by the MoD.
The SNP insists there are strong reasons to believe the UK Government is preparing to close two out of three Scottish military airbases and cut RAF personnel numbers by up to 74% in Scotland.
Westminster SNP Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has published a briefing report on the impending cuts which contrasts the situation in Scotland with our independent Nordic neighbours, all of whom operate more bases with significantly more aircraft than the UK does in Scotland.
Speaking ahead of the announcement Mr Robertson said:
“Our defence communities are braced for bad news, they have been treated appallingly by the UK government throughout this process, and they now deserve certainty over their future.
“There is no strategic or defence reason why the Ministry of Defence should consider massive and disproportionate cuts to the RAF in Scotland, while concentrating basing, spending and manpower in the South of England.”
Mr Robertson argued that “Given Scotland’s geographic location” it made “no sense” and would be unjustified for Whitehall to cut RAF operations by up to 74 per cent.
He contrasted Scotland’s expected defence numbers with similar sized independent neighbours and added:
“All our independent Nordic neighbours have similar strategic priorities and they maintain more airbases and more aircraft. None of them is considering such a damaging course of action.
“Despite being a maritime nation we now have no maritime patrol capability at all, and the specialist base for this vital function at RAF Kinloss is being closed. Now RAF Lossiemouth, and RAF Leuchars are being weighed up for closure.
“It seems probable that Scotland will be left with only one military airbase and limited operational capabilities. This is totally unacceptable.”
Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead who has campaigned vigorously for the retention of RAF Lossiemouth said:
“The defence and strategic case for retaining RAF Lossiemouth is compelling. The base is ideally placed to deal with the challenges of the region and is the only air force station in direct flying distance for our Nordic allies.
“Moray is uniquely facing a double RAF base closure which would be an economic disaster. Regardless of any rebasing decisions concerning the Army the further reduction of air force personnel in Moray would have a devastating effect on the economy and society of Moray and the north of Scotland.”
RAF Leuchars is important to the local economy in Fife, sustaining jobs and supporting local businesses. Opponents of the closure claim it will devastate the area and will lead to the loss of almost 2000 local jobs.
UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox has already conceded that Scotland has been disproportionately hit by a reduction in defence jobs over the decade to 2010 – a decline of 27.9% north of the border, compared to an 11.6% fall for the UK as a whole.
North-East Fife SNP MSP Rod Campbell who is a strong supporter of RAF Leuchars said:
“These facts support the case for Scotland not to have two-thirds of its airbases closed by the UK government. Such a prospect is wholly unacceptable to the communities of North East Fife.
“Last week the UK Government announced it plans to close the Fife Ness coastguard service at Crail it would be a double blow to the region and a heavy price to pay to the UK Government were Leuchars to close too.”
Until recently Scotland’s three air force bases were home to ten flying squadrons operating Nimrod MR2s (RAF Kinloss), Tornado GR4s (RAF Lossiemouth) and Tornado F3s and Typhoons (RAF Leuchars). Today there are just four.
- 2008 56 Squadron RAF Leuchars
- 2009 43 Squadron RAF Leuchars
- 2011 111 Squadron RAF Leuchars
- 2011 14 Squadron RAF Lossiemouth
- 2011 42 (R) Squadron RAF Kinloss
- 2011 CXX Squadron RAF Kinloss
- 2011 201 Squadron RAF Kinloss
- 2010 6 Squadron RAF Leuchars
- 12 Squadron RAF Lossiemouth
- XV Squadron RAF Lossiemouth
- 617 Squadron RAF Lossiemouth
In addition, 202 Squadron operates Sea King helicopters from RAF Lossiemouth for Search and Rescue missions.
There is not a single remaining operational RAF squadron, which was raised in Scotland.