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Moray task force calls for community insight to counter a 'commuter' Tornado presence

01 November 2010

The local task force gathering evidence for UK government politicians deciding the future of the RAF in Moray claims that fighter pilots could spend more than half their flying time 'commuting' to the prime low-level training areas in Scotland.

The Moray task force, which is made up of community representatives, private businesses and public bodies including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Moray Council and Skills Development Scotland. is working from within the community, and with defence experts and economists, to deliver the strongest possible arguments for retaining the RAF in Kinloss and Lossiemouth.

Moray was left reeling almost two weeks ago when Prime Minister David Cameron announced the cancelling of the Nimrod contract for RAF Kinloss, throwing its future into doubt and possibly ending a 70 year RAF relationship with the area.

The Ministry of Defence has said no decision has been made in relation to speculation that it plans to transfer Tornados from RAF Lossiemouth to RAF Marham in Norfolk, 400 miles from the Highland training ground on Lossiemouth's doorstep.

Pilots must have a minimum 12 hours of tactical low-level training every month, but a move to Norfolk will mean that much of this time will be spent just getting to the bombing ranges and training grounds in Scotland. Sessions could last just 20 minutes before the aircraft will have to turn back or run out of fuel.

The task force's George McIntyre, Convener of Moray Council, said: "We want to ensure that decisions taken about the future of the bases take full account of the indisputable economic, social and defence advantages to the RAF of being based in Moray. Economically, we already know that the decisions taken in the next few weeks could affect one in five of our jobs in Moray - this alone is indefensible.

"Also, experts are making it clear that it makes no sense in strategic defence terms. We have heard that already declining training times for our country's Tornado pilots could be halved if the government transfers the squadrons to RAF Marham. The fact that pilots will spend valuable time 'commuting' to the North of Scotland to access the UK's best training areas and bombing ranges seems illogical."

Moray's task force submission will head to the Scottish Parliament to seek cross party support from the political party leaders mid week. It is then due to go to Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the MoD by the end of the week. The task force's Calum MacPherson of HIE, says now is the time for anyone with information which will support the defence, economic and social arguments to feed into the case.

"So many people - individuals, small businesses, major employers and former RAF personnel, have already offered vital front-line intelligence to add to the expert analysis which is on-going. Anyone who thinks they have specific facts which might add to these arguments can let us know now."

The task force can be contacted by e-mail at info@moraytaskforce.com

For anyone without access to e-mail, written information can be passed to Moray Council in Elgin or to HIE at Horizon Scotland in the Forres Enterprise Park.


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