Issued jointly by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Moray Council:
People in Moray are moving swiftly to tackle the impact of military cutbacks on the county and plan for future economic growth.
Business and community leaders met at an emergency summit meeting in Elgin today (Wednesday 20 October 2010) to establish a Moray Task Force, which aims to mitigate the effect of RAF withdrawal from Kinloss and campaign to save RAF Lossiemouth from the threat of closure.
The new task force combines private and public sector leadership, with representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Moray Council, and Skills Development Scotland, along with leaders of local businesses.
Announcing the creation of the Task Force, Convener of Moray Council, Cllr George McIntyre said that losing RAF Kinloss was 'like a sudden death in the family'
"We all feel a great sense of loss and sadness at this decision," he said.
"It is like a sudden death in the family, and we can only imagine how the families directly affected are feeling at this time."
The UK Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, announced on Tuesday 19 October, will have a serious effect on Moray.
RAF operations at Kinloss are to quickly cease following cancellation of a contract to replace the Nimrod fleet.
A proposed reduction in the size of the Tornado fleet could also have major local implications. Four Tornado squadrons are based at nearby RAF Lossiemouth.
A study published earlier this year by 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.
Calum MacPherson, HIE's Area Manager for Moray, said: "The Kinloss decision is a blow for Moray, but what the Task Force is saying is that local people are not about to take this lying down.
"This is a resilient community, with a strong record of partnership working. The public sector partners, local politicians and business leaders stand united and are prepared to do what it takes to preserve local jobs and build a sustainable future.
"This is a very determined group of people with a clear vision, a strong commitment and, in the circumstances, a very positive attitude about Moray's future.
"Working together, we can be highly effective and achieve our goals to support people directly affected by the defence review, plan and implement sustainable economic growth, and maintain confidence in our businesses and communities."
At the hour-long summit the present situation was examined and immediate actions were agreed.
Elliot Robertson, Chief Executive of Robertson Homes, part of the Elgin-based Robertson Group said:
"The speedy formation of the Moray Task Force shows how strongly the area's business community feels about the loss of RAF Kinloss, and how seriously we take the ongoing threat to RAF Lossiemouth.
"As an urgent priority, we will be pressing the UK Government to take positive and rapid action to help ensure the economy survives and the community stays intact. There is no moral or economic case for leaving Moray as an economic wasteland.
"Measures such as Special Enterprise Zone status and other fiscal incentives to attract new and expanding businesses need to be considered urgently. We cannot lose the people and therefore the skills on which this area relies. My own company is ready to play a part in this collective effort."