Defence cuts leave 'gaping hole' in Moray economy

Media caption,
Reaction to the closure of RAF Kinloss

Cuts announced in the UK government's defence review will leave a "gaping hole" in the Moray economy, according to First Minister Alex Salmond.

The region's two RAF bases contribute more than £150m to the local economy annually and support about 5,700 jobs.

RAF Kinloss is set to close after ministers cancelled orders for the new Nimrod MRA4 surveillance aircraft.

The future of nearby RAF Lossiemouth, which is home to Tornado squadrons, remains uncertain.

Mr Salmond told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that the UK government had made decisions without thinking through the consequences to the communities.

He said: "I don't think that's the way you should make public decisions.

"If you are going to make a decision which is hugely adverse to the community then you should have within your announcement what exactly you are going to do to present remedial action to that community and help it through the difficulties and extremity to which you are subjecting it."

Nine of the MRA4 surveillance aircraft were due to be based in Moray.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that as a result of the cancellation of the Nimrod replacement, RAF Kinloss would no longer be required.

Defence sources

It is understood that the Ministry of Defence could retain the site and may eventually use it as a barracks for soldiers returning from Germany.

Defence sources said the troops would not arrive until about 2015 at the earliest.

A final decision has not yet been taken about RAF Lossiemouth.

It has been feared that the Tornado aircraft currently based at RAF Lossiemouth could be transferred to RAF Marham.

RAF Leuchars in Fife is also set to continue.

MoD sources said no Scottish infantry battalions would be cut in the defence review and that the Royal Marine base at Condor in Arbroath was also unaffected.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said he understood the "anger, shock and disappointment" which was being felt over the cuts.

The Lib Dem MP said the Lossiemouth decision had still to be made.

Mr Moore said: "The purpose of the way we made these decisions is to make sure we had an orderly process to review the bases and look at alternative uses.

"Certainly one of the major potential uses is to bring members of the British Army back from Germany and rebase them in Moray."

He said he would be having an "ongoing dialogue" with representatives of people in Moray.

Labour's shadow Scottish Secretary Ann McKechin said the government's Strategic Defence Review was "shambolic".

She said: "The community in RAF Kinloss and Lossiemouth are the ones who are suffering as a result of entirely botched decisions."

Ms McKechin added: "We believe Nimrod is a key part of our defence strategy. It is about making sure we can have quick responses when the country is in danger.

"The consequences are that RAF Kinloss has been left with no future."

She said the cost of taking troops to Kinloss from Germany would cost billions.

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