Decision on Lossiemouth closure delayed until 2011

By Cally McWilliam

The uncertainty over the closure of RAF Lossiemouth continues today as Defense Secretary Liam Fox confirmed last night that no decision on the future of the base would be taken until next year. The announcement came during a discussion with MP Angus Robertson, the SNP representative for the Moray area. This comes after ministers decided to scrap the Nimrod MRA4 replacement programme, which will effectively cause the closure of the neighbouring RAF Kinloss base.

Mr Robertson argued that there are important and practical reasons for keeping the Lossiemouth base open, claiming that it would be the best place to base the new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and that as the countries most northerly air base it could strengthen military co-operation with Norway, as the country are purchasing the same plane.

He stated: “There is no doubt that the successful future of RAF Lossiemouth can be secured through co-operation with our Nordic neighbours if the right military facilities are maintained, and vital capabilities such as maritime reconnaissance and fast-jet capability located in the best strategic location.”

He also raised the issue of the large social and economic impact the closure would have on the area. Last year Lossiemouth celebrated 70 years of having the RAF based in the town, but the decision means further doubt and insecurity for the families of service personnel stationed at the air bases and for the community in general on whether jobs and funding in the region will be lost. Last weekend 7,000 people turned out in force to protest the closure, receiving support from actor Euan McGregor and pledges from MP’s such as Annabel Goldie, Iain Gray and Tavish Scott that they would fight to keep the base open.

In another act of support for the base within the community, a local weekly newspaper, the Northern Scot, has started ‘The People’s Campaign’ in order to gain publicity for the cause. After playing an important part in organising last weekends protest, the paper has also started a petition and created banners, t-shirts and posters as well as writing to the prime minister inviting him to visit Moray personally to get a feel of the impact the base’s closure would have.

The editor of the paper Mike Collins stated: “The two bases have over 5,700 service and civilian personnel and the local enterprise company has reported that they pump £160m into the local economy each year. The stakes are high for the future of the Moray area and we are fulfilling our role as the local newspaper in championing the cause and giving a voice to the anger and concerns of local people.”