Flying visit to London as Leuchars petition is delivered to government

by Patrick McPartlin and Tom Barry

With the closure of RAF Kinloss in Moray already confirmed, fears are mounting over the future of Scotland’s other airbases in Lossiemouth and Leuchars following orders by the Westminster government to cut RAF spending as part of the strategic defence review.

Campaigners are set to hand in a petition with 7000 signatures to Downing Street, protesting the closure of the RAF Leuchars airbase. There are more than 21,000 members of the Save RAF Leuchars group on Facebook, which has been set up by Residents Action Force Leuchars.

One of the Tornado jets based at RAF Leuchars.

The Liberal Democrats have also created a website in support of the base, with Sir Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife, and Iain Smith, MSP for the area, helping to deliver the petition.

The announcement comes barely a week after Armed Forces minister Nick Harvey visited the Fife base and met with the station commander and protestors. Whilst no concrete decision has been made, Harvey stressed the possibility that the base would take on an “alternative defence role” should the RAF be pulled from the site.

A report by Scottish Enterprise and Fife Council published earlier this year said that said the closure of the airbase would devastate the local area as it supports 2,000 jobs and generates £60 million for the local economy.

Meanwhile Scottish politicians are urging the Ministry of Defence to reconsider plans to close RAF Kinloss in light of the situation in Libya. Several jets based at airbases in Scotland are currently on the front line in North Africa.

The airbase fell victim to the strategic defence and security review which resulted with cancellation of its Nimrod project. SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson called the decision to close airbases in the current political situation “daft and dangerous.”

Speaking on the BBC Politics Show he said: “I think it does kind of underline the fact that the SDSR, which was published in October last year, has already been overtaken by events.

“The UK Government should seriously reconsider both its cancellation of some important assets but also think very long and hard about considering the closure of important bases like RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Leuchars in Scotland.

“If ever there was to be an argument against their closure we’ve had it in the last few days.”

Mr Robertson was supported on the programme by Sir Menzies when the latter added: “I’ve been critical of the defence review because I think a lot of it was finance driven rather than foreign policy driven.

“The mantra which is often used in defence circles that we keep these things under constant review probably has more significance at the moment than it has had because the operations in the Middle East will put a very substantial strain on our existing Royal Air Force assets.

“Measured against what we are proposing in relation to the Royal Air Force it seems to me that there’s a very strong argument for going back to the drawing board.”