The chair of a newly formed partnership set up to respond to the economic challenges facing Moray says the area is a pioneer in its approach to finding new opportunities.
Moray Economic Partnership (MEP) is building upon the close links which have developed between the community, business and public agencies which came together to support the campaign to save RAF Lossiemouth and to get a fair deal for those affected by the withdrawal of the RAF from nearby Kinloss. In March an economic response plan developed in consultation with Moray's Community Planning Partnership was launched by the Scottish Government to gear up the economy over the next 12 months.
Since then senior economic development officers from Moray Council, HIE and the business community have been collaborating on an economic strategy to meet the challenges faced by Moray. The document will be presented for approval to the Moray councillors and the Community Planning Partnership at their next meeting.
Moray businessman Jim Royan has been tasked, as chair of MEP, with exploring how the bodies charged with vital services including housing, schools, education, and business support can co-ordinate their efforts to build a stronger economy.
"The economy has undoubtedly been affected by the uncertainty over the future of our bases, which support almost 6,000 local jobs. With one in five of our working population under threat, how could that not have a serious impact on school rolls, health services, trading in our local shops and the area's housing market?
"However, we have also seen an unprecedented joining of community forces to raise public and political awareness - at the highest levels - of the social, economic and defence arguments in favour of retaining the long relationship we have with the RAF.
"It is this pioneering determination and resilience we want to harness as we move to find new opportunities, and press the UK Government to take financial and social responsibility for the impact their decisions are having."
"With the Moray Council and others producing an economic strategy at this early stage I feel that we are now on the front foot in terms of planning for the future. As we move forward from the impending announcement on our RAF bases, whatever that might mean for Moray, there will be a chance for everyone in Moray to play their part in shaping what we do next."
MEP brings together Scottish Government officials and senior management from Moray Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Moray College, and Moray Chamber of Commerce. Its aim is to ensure that shared working practices deliver the best possible results for Moray.
"Since the day of the announcement by the Prime Minister in October last year which dealt the hammer blow to the Nimrods and cast doubt on our fast jet future every agency and business has worked together. This is already reaping results including - a strongly fought campaign, support mechanisms for service and civilian staff in Kinloss, increases in inward investment enquiries, and the reputation as a growing base for development of digital healthcare.
"We know there's no quick fix. Moray is facing economic upheaval and recovery won't happen overnight. What we can promise is the full commitment of all the partners to work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the people of Moray.
"Many people will have ideas on ways to inject energy into our existing sectors and to develop emerging opportunities. We want to help our community deliver these ideas as together we demonstrate, far beyond our own boundaries, that Moray is open for business."