Concern over defence cuts impact on RAF bases

Image caption,
The loss of some Tornado squadrons could affect RAF Lossiemouth

Work to build aircraft carriers on the Clyde and at Rosyth will continue despite next week's planned defence spending cuts, the BBC understands.

But concerns have been raised about the possible impact of cuts on RAF bases in Scotland.

The budget for the Ministry of Defence is thought to have been finalised as part of the Chancellor's Spending Review next week.

It is understood that the armed forces will face cuts of about 8%.

The BBC understands that both planned aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will be built - but the Royal Navy stands to lose a significant portion of its surface fleet, while the order for joint strike fighters for the carriers will be scaled down substantially.

The carriers are being constructed in sections in Fife, Glasgow, Portsmouth and Devon.

It is believed that the Joint RAF/Fleet Air Arm Harrier force may face the axe, while some squadrons of RAF Tornado jets could be saved instead - although some air force bases will close.

The BBC's Tim Reid said the RAF had been hoping to keep some Tornado squadrons at the expense of the joint force Harrier, which would have been the aircraft to fly off the carriers until the joint strike fighter was ready.

The loss of some Tornado squadrons could well affect RAF Lossiemouth.

The BBC also understands that the Nimrod MRA4, the replacement for the ageing Nimrod, may not go ahead - which would cast a serious cloud over RAF Kinloss.

Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, accused the UK government of attempting to "spin calamity for Scotland as good news".

He said: "Scotland has already endured mammoth defence cuts over the last decade, and every indication is that this will be compounded by decisions to be announced this week cutting bases, jobs and skills.

"Any closures will have devastating social and economic consequences. Similarly, any threat to aircraft carrier orders will have a severe impact on the workforces constructing them in Glasgow and Fife as well as the engineering sector in general."

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy accused the government of deliberately leaking the news of cuts in an attempt to "soften up" the country by talking about big cuts but then agreeing to smaller ones.

"This is no way to run a defence review," he said.

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