|Printable version||E-mail this to a friend|
First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the UK Government's announcement that RAF Lossiemouth is to be retained, with a new Army role for Leuchars.
But the First Minister expressed disappointment at the news that RAF staff are to be withdrawn from the Leuchars base, leaving Scotland with only one RAF base.
UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox has today announced RAF Lossiemouth will be retained, Leuchars will become the new HQ and the home of a Multi Role Brigade, Kinloss will become an Army base and the RAF will be withdrawn from Leuchars.
Around 5,000 military personnel are to move to Scotland as part of a new Multi Role Brigade with significant presence expected at Kinloss and Leuchars - more than doubling the size of the current Army presence in Scotland.
Westminster's decision follows campaigning by the Scottish Government and the communities of Lossiemouth and Leuchars to protect Scotland's defence footprint, following a cross-party submission to the UK Government in September 2010.
The First Minister said:
"Today's announcement by the UK Government is, broadly speaking, welcome news. Scotland will retain its frontline flying role at RAF Lossiemouth, keeping specialist high-skilled jobs and services here.
"It is excellent news that the RAF is to remain in Moray and I appreciate how welcome today's announcement is for the community there, and for all of us who value the RAF's presence in Scotland.
"Not only that, the current Army presence in Scotland will be more than doubled, thanks to the arrival of around 5,000 military personnel to form a new Multi-Role Brigade headquartered at Leuchars. The size of Scotland's army will increase from 3,500 to 8,500 - indeed, the same size as the Irish Army - returning us to where we should rightfully be.
"Although we regret the decline of the RAF in Scotland, we welcome Scotland's army back after ten years of being under our population share of services personnel located in Scotland. This is deserved recognition by the Ministry of Defence of the immense contribution Scotland has made for generations to our armed forces.
"Liam Fox has also announced that the Ministry of Defence will need a new training area in Scotland. Working with the Ministry of Defence, the Scottish Government will now begin to explore where this should be situated, and we will work closely with local communities to determine that.
"But some important concerns must be addressed, and they must be addressed quickly - the communities of Moray and Fife have already been kept waiting long enough for today's decision and Fife should not be left hanging any longer to find out about the detail of the transition.
"It is bitterly disappointing that the RAF is to be withdrawn from Leuchars. We campaigned vigorously alongside the people of Moray and Fife to keep the RAF in both Lossiemouth and Leuchars. There is an overwhelming case to keep both, but the decision was ultimately one for the UK Government and I am sad to see the RAF go and leave Scotland with one RAF base.
"However, I believe flying capability can still be retained at Leuchars if the UK Government use it as an embarkation point for the Army. All the facilities and skills are there to make this happen quickly and I believe this is an option the Ministry of Defence must consider very carefully. I will be putting this case to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary and I expect them to look into it thoroughly.
"It is important that the transition from RAF to Army base is made quickly, with as little impact as possible on the local community. If there is to be a time-lag between the withdrawal of the RAF and the arrival of the Army then the UK Government must commit to supporting the community of Leuchars in the meantime.
"Nevertheless, today's decision means the armed forces are not only staying in Leuchars but increasing their presence there. We can look forward to an influx of highly-skilled professionals moving to Fife, including military logisticians and engineers, which is great news for the local economy.
"Not only that, the majority of these servicemen and women are parents who have families they will bring with them to Scotland - they will raise their children here and be an asset to our communities for years to come.
"Scotland has historically punched above its weight in contributing to the armed forces. I am glad to see that commitment has been recognised by the UK Government and I look forward to working constructively to secure the best outcome for Scotland.
"What should be understood is that the Home Basing Strategy being pursued by the Army means that army bases will have a much more substantial economic impact throughout the communities they serve. In many senses, therefore, today's statement represents the Army coming home."