RAF campaigners urge Cameron to do the right thing
10 July 2011
Campaigners have warned the Prime Minister that reducing RAF bases in Scotland would be catastrophic for the UK's defence capabilities and rip the heart from affected communities.
The warning came in a letter to David Cameron as Westminster prepares to hear the final decision on the retention of RAF bases in Lossiemouth and Leuchars.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, is expected to announce his decision some time next week. RAF Kinloss will cease to operate as an active RAF base on August 1, but RAF Lossiemouth and Leuchars still await news of their fate.
The letter, from the Moray Task Force, urged the PM to keep RAF Lossiemouth operational and avoid the 'single biggest blow to the Scottish economy for years'.
Campaigners at RAF Lossiemouth also staged a last-ditch protest at the gates of their local base yesterday to drive their point home.
One ex-serviceman Harry Lofts, 82, served at the base as far back as 1948.
The ex-Warrant Officer said that the MoD have invested millions in developments at the base.
"They opened a new medical centre two years ago, and are close to completing the multi-million pound sergeants' mess building," he said.
"The base has two big runways that allow it to operate in a wide range of weather conditions, and a huge complement of technical ground crew.
"I served for 30 years and retired to settle in the area, which many have done to the great benefit of the local community.
"Uprooting this lot would be catastrophic in so many ways."
The Moray Task Force was established to fight base closures and mitigate against the effects of the decision already made for RAF Kinloss. The bases currently bring in £158m of wages to the region, and support almost 1 in 5 jobs.
Chair of the Moray Task Force and leader of the Moray Council, Cllr George McIntyre, said he and everyone involved with the fight for the bases were determined the area will not suffer.
"Make no mistake, we are open for business but a decision to take the fast jets away from RAF Lossiemouth would be a disastrous for us and Scotland. The government has been criticised for a hasty decision over Nimrod, let's hope they really have considered the national strategic arguments for retaining RAF Lossiemouth." he said.
"It would be total nonsense to close this facility when there are so many credible reasons not to, especially given the massive investment the MoD has made in it over the last few years."
Colin McGregor, a former RAF Lossiemouth Tornado pilot and brother of actor Ewan McGregor, also reminded ministers why the base is the obvious choice for retention.
Speaking from Afghanistan where he is making a BBC documentary with 617 Tornado Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth, Colin said: "Lossie is the biggest and best fast jet base in the UK, minutes from training grounds and bombing ranges and in a great area for service families.
"MoD chiefs know how important it is to have happy service families with the options of good schools, a safe environment and a place many servicemen and women choose to settle.
"It would be madness to close this facility; the government must do the right thing and keep it open."
Transcript of letter sent to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister
The community and businesses of Moray have devoted considerable time since October 2010 to plead for an early decision, and the right decision on RAF Lossiemouth. In addition to the devastating blow of RAF Kinloss closure, we have presented clear evidence that the delay on Lossiemouth's future is causing considerable damage to the local economy. The people of Moray and service families have endured a wait approaching nine months, during which time business confidence has been badly damaged.
You have stated that the decision will take into consideration economic and social factors as well as defence issues. We have demonstrated a strong case in all these aspects.
In defence terms RAF Lossiemouth has the scale, the runways and the capacity to accommodate a range of aircraft, making it one of the best equipped and most versatile RAF Bases in the UK. The weather conditions and proximity to training grounds also place RAF Lossiemouth as the optimum location for a fast jet base now and in the future.
After 70 years the interdependency on the RAF in Moray both in economic and social terms is of a scale unmatched elsewhere in the UK. We have submitted independent data which verifies that the population and economy of this region has a significantly higher dependency on the RAF than any other region of the UK. We have seen no evidence to the contrary.
We understand that announcements are imminent, and our plea is the same now as it was in October last year. Do not deliver a double closure blow to this defence-dependent rural community which has supported the RAF for 70 years. The economic and social impact would be the biggest single economic blow that Scotland has received in years.
Yours in hope
The Moray Task Force
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