Issued jointly by the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Public sector leaders from organisations across Scotland will gather in Forres tomorrow (Friday) to agree a co-ordinated response to the threat hanging over thousands of jobs in Moray in the wake of the UK Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
Scottish Government Minister Bruce Crawford will chair the meeting, organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to consider the role that agencies are playing and can play to mitigate the social and economic impact of the issues now facing Moray, the Highlands and Scotland.
Last month's SDSR announced the cancellation of the Nimrod aircraft programme destined for RAF Kinloss, and left a serious question mark over the future of RAF Lossiemouth. Between them, the two bases support more than 5,700 jobs and generate an estimated £150million a year for the local economy.
Immediately after the SDSR announcement, a Moray task force, comprising representatives from the public, private, community and voluntary sectors, was set up to represent local interests and spearhead campaigning efforts over the coming weeks.
Speaking ahead of Friday's meeting, Bruce Crawford said:
"The Scottish Government is very clear that the situation facing communities across Moray and further afield as a result of actions by the UK Government is a national issue of national importance to the whole of Scotland.
"The community has mobilised to fight the decisions and we will support them in all they do. The fight to keep the RAF in Moray is being stepped up - and the case for retaining RAF Lossiemouth is overwhelming.
"But we know that the RAF's withdrawal from Kinloss will impact on the local community. We need to make sure that all public bodies are united in preparing for this and doing all that they can to mitigate the impact on Moray and the surrounding area. This meeting will be central to that important process.
"It is vital that we ensure there is a widespread understanding of the issues and challenges facing Moray as we go forward, helping co-ordinate and focus the way ahead over the coming weeks and months."
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE added:
"The SDSR has major social and economic implications for Moray and the surrounding areas. The combined contribution of the RAF bases in Kinloss and Lossiemouth to the Moray economy is very significant.
"Our Economic Impact Assessment showed that more than 5,700 jobs are linked either directly or indirectly to the bases and it is clear that there are potential knock-on implications for school rolls, health service workforce and general business confidence.
"HIE is heavily involved in the strong and proactive response being taken forward by the Moray Task Force. It is also clear that a number of public bodies are also already involved in responding to the Moray situation.
"Friday's meeting will help ensure that all the key public bodies - locally and nationally - get a full understanding of what's happening on the ground in Moray and are in a position to collectively help meet the challenges in the short, medium and longer term."
Organisations expected to be represented at Friday's meeting include HIE, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland, Moray College, NHS, VisitScotland, JobCentre Plus, SEPA, Transport Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.
The meeting will be held in HIE's office at the Enterprise Park in Forres.