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Moray task force quizzes Secretary of State for Scotland over RAF base closures

21 October 2010

Issued jointly by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Moray Council.

The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore met with members of the new Moray Task Force in Elgin today to hear of the concerns for the area's future.

The meeting was called following the Prime Minister's announcement on Tuesday that the Nimrod programme was being cancelled, effectively closing RAF Kinloss where the aircraft is based, and that the Tornado fleet was to be reduced. Tornados are based 15 miles from Kinloss at RAF Lossiemouth.

Any proposed reduction in the size of the Tornado fleet could see the Lossiemouth base closed, taking with it 3,370 jobs and the £90m annual contribution to the local economy.

The Task Force was established the day after the announcement, and comprises representatives from local government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), local business leaders and the voluntary sector.

Speaking after the meeting, Moray Council Convener, Cllr George McIntyre, said that the Secretary of State was in listening mode.

"I'm satisfied that he heard us loud and clear, and recognised the impact of such a closure on a relatively small area like Moray," he said.

"We informed him that we will be campaigning hard to secure the future of Lossiemouth as an RAF base for Tornados, and will present a sound argument against transferring the remaining squadrons to RAF Marham in Norfolk, which is where we understand they could be destined.

"For his part he said that no decision has been made as to the future location of the Tornado fleet, but recent press reports say otherwise.

"We are determined to fight to keep RAF Lossiemouth, and I have issued an invitation to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to come to Moray and see for himself what the impact of his decisions would be on this rural area."

Calum MacPherson, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Area Manager for Moray, said the Task Force members had welcomed the opportunity to put their concerns to the Scottish Secretary.

"All sections of the community across Moray are united in their shock at the decision to pull the RAF out of Kinloss and the present threat to thousands more jobs supported by Lossiemouth.

"Moray's association with the RAF goes back 70 years and there will hardly be a family or business around these bases which won't be affected by these decisions and deeply concerned for their future.

"The business community, enterprise and council leaders and the voluntary sector are speaking with one voice and our message is clear.

"We urgently need greater clarity on the speed of the planned rundown at Kinloss, and access to personnel who may wish to stay in the area and put their skills to use locally.

"And we mean to take our campaign to save Lossiemouth to the highest level, to protect this vital economic lifeline which is a core part of the Moray community."

In his statement to the House of Commons on the 19th, the Prime Minister said: 'We owe it to communities up and down the country who have supported our armed forces for many years to engage with them before final decisions are taken.'

On behalf of the Moray Task Force, Cllr McIntyre has today issued an invitation to the Prime Minister to do just that, and to see for himself how much the RAF is part of the Moray community.

A study published earlier this year by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) showed that RAF Kinloss currently supports 2,341 jobs on the base and in the wider community, and contributes £68m to the local economy every year.

The base at Lossiemouth supports a further 3,370 jobs, and contributes £90.3m annually.

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