Moray task force today criticised the ongoing uncertainty about the future of the RAF in Moray after the UK Government confirmed it would not announce the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review before the Scottish Parliamentary elections.
Members of the group said the decision to make the announcement after the 5th May prolonged the uncertainty for the communities in and around RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss, and areas including housing, hospitality and tourism were already feeling the effects.
The criticism follows news that the number of properties sold in Moray during the last quarter of 2010 dropped by more than 23 percent compared to the same period in 2009. Statistics released by Registers of Scotland this week showed the drop was the largest seen anywhere in Scotland.
Task force joint chairman Calum MacPherson said the task force had been highlighting the housing situation and other areas of the local economy to the UK Government for a number of weeks.
He said: "The statistics about house sales have only been released this week but this substantiates the submissions we made to the Ministry of Defence and Treasury officials before Christmas.
"According to a recent survey the hospitality and tourism sectors in the region depend on the RAF for around 30 percent of their annual business. If you take that element away the consequences are serious.
"This, together with the statistics released about house sales, and the fact that 5700 jobs are supported by the RAF here goes to show that Moray is the most defence-dependent region in Scotland.
"The UK Government has to see that the uncertainty which began when the Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced in October 2010 has, in recent months, manifested itself in very real and damaging ways.
Lesley Ann Parker of Moray Chamber of Commerce said:
"Clarity about the future of the bases will enable people to plan for the future. We hope the current population will stay in Moray and that new people will continue to settle in Moray to enjoy all it has to offer."
"We began 2011 with an expanded task force and a strength of focus to secure the best possible outcome for Moray. That determination is unaffected and we will continue to fight until the future of Moray's RAF bases is finally decided."