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Hollywood star backs Moray bases campaign

07 November 2010

Ewan and Colin MacGregor at RAF Lossiemouth

Photograph: Ewan and Colin MacGregor at RAF Lossiemouth in 2002 courtesy of The Northern Scot.

Scottish film star Ewan McGregor has added his voice to the growing campaign to keep the RAF in Moray.

The Hollywood actor has sent a message of support ahead of Sunday's rally in Moray, which will see thousands of people march through Lossiemouth calling for the town's RAF base to be spared the axe in the UK Government's ongoing strategic defence review.

Ewan McGregor has close connections with the Moray air base - his brother Colin was a pilot at Lossiemouth and the movie star undertook a charity flight in a Tornado with his brother in 2002 out of the threatened base. Colin McGregor will introduce the speakers at Sunday's rally.

In the message, Ewan McGregor says:

"I was shocked to hear the recent news that RAF Lossiemouth is under threat due to the possible relocation of Tornados to RAF Marham.

"I had the privilege to fly from RAF Lossiemouth in the back of a Tornado piloted by my brother Colin.

"It was evident to me that Lossiemouth and the Highlands offer the very best training environment for Tornado crews who continue to be the RAF's front line in Afghanistan.

"Since leaving the RAF, Colin has made Moray his home.  I have made many visits to the base and the surrounding area and I was honoured to be invited to turn on the Lossie Christmas lights in 2000.

"The closure of both Kinloss and Lossiemouth would be devastating to this close-knit community and the effects would be far-reaching.

"I fully support the efforts of the Moray Task Force and the Lossie and Kinloss Community Groups and wish them every success in their fight to keep the RAF presence in Moray. Good luck with the rally."

Thousands of people are expected to take part in the march organised by the 'Save RAF Lossiemouth Action Group' led by the First Minister and the leaders of the other three main political parties in Scotland. The procession will begin outside the main entrance to the RAF base and end with a rally at Grant Park, the home of Lossiemouth FC.

The air station is home to four Tornado squadrons and is the RAF's biggest fast-jet base. It supports more than 3300 jobs and is worth more than 90 million pounds a year to the economy of the area.

There are fears that the RAF's entire fleet of Tornado GR4s could be destined for Marham in Norfolk - a move that would almost inevitably lead to the closure of Lossiemouth.

Moray Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and community and business organisations have moved quickly to counter the threat to the base with the setting up of a Moray Task Force which has pledged to do everything possible to ensure the station's future.

Led by a pipe band, the march will set off at 2pm from Muirton Road outside the Moray Coast medical Centre and proceed along Coulardbank Road, Elgin Road and Moray Street to the football ground.

The rally at Grant Park will be addressed by the four Scottish party leaders as well as Moray Council convener Councillor George McIntyre, Moray MP Angus Robertson, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead,, Moray Trades Union Council chairman Councillor John Divers and Lossiemouth community councillor Carolle Ralph.

Quotes from the Scottish political party leaders ahead of Sunday's rally:

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"We intend to make the UK government and the Ministry of Defence sit up and listen to the people of Moray and Scotland. It is obvious that the Westminster government must do more to support the most defence dependent community in the UK in its hour of need. This goes far beyond Moray. It is a national issue of national importance to Scotland. The strength of feeling has been graphically illustrated by the tens of thousands of people who have signed up to the campaign to save the bases."

Mr Salmond continued: "I will be proud to march alongside community and business representatives and the families of our brave servicemen to highlight that a quarter of Scotland's defence footprint and 70 years of history cannot be allowed to disappear. I am pleased that the other main party leaders have put differences aside to help make the strongest possible case for Scotland's defence industry and the communities they support."

Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray said:

"Over a month ago I called on the First Minister and other party leaders to join with me and trades unions in a cross-party campaign to save the carrier contracts at Rosyth and Scotstoun. We saved them and now we must fight for the people of Moray.

"Let us be quite clear. These are not strategic decisions. They are cuts that will rip the heart out of the whole country. The people of Moray deserve the support and solidarity of the whole of Scotland in fighting for their community."

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said:

"Moray has a proud history of welcoming Britain's armed services to its community and of its people working alongside our UK military personnel. Sadly, given the scale of the deficit, the defence review could not be pain free.

"I fully understand the fears and worries of the people of Moray and I urge our governments to work with the local community and local council to chart a way forward and to identify opportunities.

"Moray is an area of resilience, with skilled and talented people, and we must do everything we can to help them through this challenging period. I have personally contacted both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Scottish Conservatives will continue to make the case for Scotland. It will be an honour to meet with, and march with, the people of Moray on Sunday."

Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said:

"I am delighted to be part of Sunday's rally. So many local jobs and local people's futures depend on RAF Lossiemouth. I want both to listen to local people and show my support by joining the day."

Lossiemouth councillor David Stewart, who has been involved in organising the event, said the march and rally would give people the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and present a united front in calling for the base to be spared.

"Closing the base would affect the lives and the livelihoods of thousands of people - ordinary people - and that is a message that can't be repeated often enough," he said.

"The fact that all four Scottish party leaders will be taking part in the march and rally shows just how important RAF Lossiemouth is to Scotland and we want the public to join them in sending a loud and clear message to the Ministry of Defence and the UK government that the base must be saved."

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