Issued jointly by the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Public sector agencies from across Scotland will work in partnership to help mitigate the social and economic impact of jobs losses facing Moray and develop positive actions to help the region deal with the fall out from anticipated MoD job cuts.
That was the outcome of a high-level meeting of public sector leaders who gathered in Forres today to agree co-ordinated action in response to the threat hanging over thousands of jobs in Moray in the wake of the UK Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
Scottish Government Minister Bruce Crawford chaired the meeting, organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which focussed on the role that public bodies are playing and can play to deal with impact of the issues now facing Moray.
Last month's SDSR announced the cancellation of the Nimrod aircraft programme destined for RAF Kinloss, and left a serious question mark over the future of RAF Lossiemouth. Between them, the two bases support more than 5,700 jobs and generate an estimated £158million a year for the local economy.
Immediately after the SDSR announcement, a Moray task force, comprising representatives from the public, private, community and voluntary sectors, was set up to represent local interests and spearhead campaigning efforts over the coming weeks.
Speaking after today's meeting, Bruce Crawford said:
"We agreed that this is a national issue and that we all need to give it national importance in our forward planning.
"On Sunday, thousands of people from Moray and across Scotland will take part in a march and rally calling for RAF Lossiemouth to be spared the axe. The community has united to fight the decisions and we are supporting them in all they do. The fight to keep the RAF in Moray is being stepped up - and the case for retaining RAF Lossiemouth is overwhelming.
"But we can't escape the fact that the UK Government's decision to withdraw the RAF from Kinloss will impact heavily on the local community.
"Having made the decisions, the MoD have a clear obligation to play their part in dealing with the consequences, and we continue to seek clarity on what practical assistance and package of support the UK Government intends to provide to handle the aftermath of the announcement.
"Today's meeting was vital in making sure that all key public bodies - in the Highlands and across Scotland - are working together in preparing for the challenges facing Moray and doing all that they can to mitigate the impact on the region.
"Central to our immediate plans was an agreement to investigate carefully how our respective organisations can help to mitigate the social and economic challenges now facing Moray.
"I was also pleased that everyone will also look carefully at any activity already planned to ensure that these actions do not have any unwanted sides effects which might exacerbate the problems facing the region.
"Today's meeting was a key part of a process that will go on over a period of months as we prepare for the MoD's final decisions on the future of the two bases and as we work on plans for how to deal effectively with those decisions".
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE said:
"No one is in any doubt that the implications of the SDSR are very serious for Moray and the surrounding areas.
"Our Economic Impact Assessment showed that more than 5,700 jobs are linked either directly or indirectly to the bases and it is clear that there are potential knock-on implications for school rolls, health service workforce and general business confidence.
"I welcome the fact that the public bodies represented at today's meeting have agreed that in developing new products, services or infrastructure, Moray will be given serious consideration as a location for that investment.
"We all remain committed to supporting the Moray Task Force and the wider community in seeking a positive outcome for Lossiemouth."
Organisations who were represented at Friday's meeting included HIE, Scottish Development International, Moray College, NHS, VisitScotland, JobCentre Plus, SEPA, Transport Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, Moray Council and Skills Development Scotland.