By Andy Mackie
A facebook campaign against the closure of RAF Lossiemouth is expected to rally thousands of protesters in the town this Sunday.
The social networking site has already mobalised over 11, 000 followers across social and political divides. They include MOD employees who were warned not to protest against the proposed closures.
Sundays rally in support of the under threat RAF bases in Lossiemouth and Kinloss has been organised by locals in conjunction with trade unions. The rally will be addressed by Alex Salmond, Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott in addition to John Divers, head of the local trades council.
Feelings have been running high in Lossiemouth since the bases commander Group Captain Andy Hine issued guidance blocking all staff from attending the rally. Hine has now backed down and stated: “Last week I issued guidance to all personnel at RAF Lossiemouth on engaging publicly or with the media about the future of the base. Unfortunately, some of the guidance regarding staff attending protests and rallies was not clear. Service personnel are not permitted to take part in political activities but MOD civil servants are free to take part in this type of event.”
There is still, however, disquiet at the way in which Hines’ original statement was handled. Dougie Brownlie of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS) who represent the 800 plus civilian members of staff said: “While the PCS welcomes Captain Hines’ latest statement the anger of members is such that I would expect they will attend in large numbers.”
The campaign now enjoys cross party support in Scotland and all four major parties will be represented. Scottish Conservatie leader Annabel Goldie said: “Sadly, given the scale of the deficit, the defence review could not be pain free. I fully understand the fears and worries of the people of Moray and I urge our governments to work with the local community and local council to chart a way forward and to identify opportunities.Moray is an area of resilience with skilled and talented people and we must all do everything we can to help them through this challenging period. I have personally contacted both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Scottish Conservatives will continue to make the case for Scotland. It will be an honour to meet with and march with the people of Moray on Sunday”.
The SNP welcomed cross party support and local Moray MSP Richard Lochead said: “It is great news that Scotland’s party leaders are throwing their weight behind Moray’s cause. On 7th November local residents and supporters of the campaign from around Scotland will have their opportunity to show their support as well. I congratulate the rally’s organisers in Lossiemouth for the helping make the campaign to save Moray’s RAF jobs a national priority”.
The Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrat parties were unavailable for comment.