A raft of measures to boost the Moray economy will be driven forward to help mitigate the impact of UK Government defence cuts.
The Scottish Government today unveiled an 'Economic Response Plan' focused on gearing the economy for growth over the next 12 months.
The Plan, prepared with the help of a wide range of local organisations, is designed to stimulate inward investment, support business start up's, promote skills development, develop tourism initiatives and create jobs.
A specially appointed board will be established to drive the project forward. It will bring together representatives from Moray council, local business and enterprise organisations and community organisations.
Key actions include:
A longer term economic response plan is also in development and will be finalised once the UK government makes clear the fate of RAF Lossiemouth.
Launching the plan in Forres today, Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil said:
"The UK government has left the people of Moray devastated by the decision to close RAF Kinloss and still in limbo over the future of RAF Lossiemouth.
"The Scottish Government is determined to support this community now and for the long term and to ensure that everything is done to help the Moray economy grow and prosper.
"This plan will help support jobs, training, business start ups and inward investment to the area and, importantly, offer a lifeline and hopefully some peace of mind to the people of Moray.
"The work of everyone involved locally and nationally to put this Plan together has been incredibly heartening and I encourage everyone to continue to keep up the fight to save our bases at RAF Lossiemouth and Leuchars.
"The main strength of our campaign is that political and business leaders and local people are united in sending a strong message to the UK government."
HIE Area Manager for Moray, Calum MacPherson, said:
"The last few months have been a very difficult time for Moray. The reality of losing one RAF base, and the continued uncertainty about the future of another, have created serious challenges. But the community here has united, displaying incredible levels of resilience and determination.
"Much has already been done to mitigate against the closure of RAF Kinloss and the uncertainty about RAF Lossiemouth. The Economic Response Plan announced today will ensure that we build on the work already done, that all areas of the community - the public, private and voluntary sectors - work hard and work together. The Plan will stimulate economic growth, create new jobs and diversify existing business, promoting Moray and all the qualities that make it such a good place to work and to live in and ensuring that it has the best possible future."
Moray Council Convener and Chair of the Moray Task Force, Councillor George McIntyre, welcomed the launch of the Moray Economic Response Plan. He said:
"It is recognised that the RAF Kinloss run-down is already having an impact on the businesses and communities across Moray and into the Highlands. The Economic Response Plan sets out the actions the partners will take to support local businesses to encourage the creation of new jobs and training opportunities. I would hope that it will act as a catalyst to spur the UK Government to providing appropriate financial assistance to the Moray Community."
Chief Executive of Moray Chamber of Commerce, Lesley Ann Parker, said:
"This is further acknowledgement by the Scottish Government that the uncertainty surrounding the future of the RAF in Moray and Scotland is a national issue. Businesses in Moray welcome the support that this programme will provide to stimulate economic growth. It is important that the UK Government also acknowledges that in Moray in order to become less dependent on the public sector we need them to act with the Treasury to establish these economic incentive zones and encourage the inward investment these will bring. If new enterprise zones are likely to be announced next week then I appeal to Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget to turn his attention to Moray and consider us to provide growth and stimulation of the economy."