Support for Scots RAF bases

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Ministers have taken action to support Scottish communities suffering from the uncertainty created by the UK Government’s strategic defence and security review.

First Minister Alex Salmond today unveiled a new £300,000 initiative to create training and development opportunities for people facing potential redundancy in Moray as a result of the planned withdrawal of the RAF from Kinloss.

Ministers and officials are also working closely with Fife Council and other key partners to help co-ordinate the campaign to save RAF Leuchars. Fife Council is focusing primarily on the case for retention and assessing the potential economic impact were Leuchars to close.

A meeting between Ministers, Fife Council and Fife Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to take place today to ensure action responding to the threat over the future of RAF Leuchars is co-ordinated. The FM will discuss the case for retaining Scotland’s RAF Bases when he meets the UK Defence Secretary in London on January 11.

Mr Salmond said:

“The main strength of our campaign to save vital RAF bases across Scotland is that it is united and cross-party in nature. This approach must continue as the future of our RAF bases has implications for the whole of Scotland.

“Today we are announcing a £300,000 skills and training package for Moray in the wake of the news that RAF Kinloss is to close following the decision to withdraw the Nimrod aircraft from service. It is right and responsible that the Scottish Government provides support of this kind to the Moray community to deal with the many difficulties this presents.

“Ministers are also working closely with representatives in Fife , despite previous assurances from the UK Government that RAF Leuchars wouldn’t be considered for closure. This includes support for Fife Council and Scottish Enterprise in developing the economic assessment for RAF Leuchars.

“RAF Leuchars employs around 1,560 service personnel and 220 civilian staff directly. Closing Leuchars – and RAF Lossiemouth – would be a total waste of public money. Around £25 million was recently invested in upgrading the runway at Leuchars which has made it one of the RAF’s best runways and one which will be fit for purpose for the next 25 years.

“Our communities deserve clarity from the MoD as a matter of urgency to allow them to plan for the future. Scotland has already made a major sacrifice through RAF Kinloss but we must ensure all is done to protect Scotland’s remaining RAF bases.”

Calum MacPherson of Highlands and Islands Enterprise said:

“The decision on Nimrod has been met with disbelief from many in the defence world. We have been told there is no hope of reversing that decision. Therefore local agencies have to plan for the worst case scenario – and this funding will get the ball rolling and allow our partners to respond to some of the more immediate challenges.

“By promoting the advantages of living and working in Moray, highlighting suitable alternative jobs, attract new investment to the area and crucially provide skills training to keep our valued personnel and contractors in the area then early progress can be made and foundations put in place.”

Damien Yeates, chief executive of Skills Development Scotland (SDS), said:

“This commitment will enable us to develop responsive training opportunities for those affected by the decision to wind down RAF activities at Kinloss. We will continue to work with our taskforce partners and local learning providers on the ground in Moray. Together we will ensure this funding is focused on need and maximises benefits for individuals and Moray businesses. It is will be part of an integrated strategy aimed at maintaining skilled people in Moray and addressing its current and future economic challenges.”