David Stewart MSP

MSP accuses UK Government of “Alice in Wonderland economics” over RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth

4 November 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has accused the UK Government of “Alice in Wonderland” economics over its decision to end its contract for a new fleet of Nimrod aircraft, forcing RAF Kinloss to close.
He has also called upon the Tory/LibDem Coalition to introduce a “social covenant” with the people of Moray to help them recover from the blow of losing Kinloss and the possible closure of Lossiemouth.
Leading a debate in Holyrood on the importance of RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth, Mr Stewart said that one of the world’s most respected defence commentators, “Jane’s Defence Weekly” had stated that the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA.4 programme would not save significant amounts of money from the
£3.65billion procurement costs of the aircraft because almost all of this money had already been spent on development and production.
This left only about £200million to cover final delivery of the 9 aircraft during the next five years.
Mr Stewart said: “This is Alice in Wonderland economics – stopping a scheme where one aircraft has already been built and the other 8 were 90% complete.”
He added that when the contract cancellation charges were added on to the money already spent on building the aircraft there would be virtually no saving.
It would therefore be more cost effective to continue with the programme and keep Kinloss open.
Mr Stewart said that as recently as September the Secretary of State for Defence stated in a leaked letter to David Cameron that: “Deletion of the Nimrod MRA.4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent, compromise maritime CT (counter
terrorism), remove long range search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan.”
Mr Stewart also voiced his fears for RAF Kinloss’s neighbour, RAF Lossiemouth, which is home to the largest fast-jet base in the UK containing three operational squadrons of Tornado GR4s, Sea King Search and Rescue aircraft as well as an extensive range of operational, logistic and administrative support functions.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review states that there will be a reduced Tornado fleet in the UK until the next generation of jet fighters made up of the Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter is introduced.
Leaked documents from the MOD said that the Tornado fleet, along with aircraft maintenance will be centralised at RAF Marham in Norfolk by October 31, 2011.
A Highlands and Islands Enterprise study has found that RAF Kinloss and Lossiemouth support 5,710 Full Time Equivalent jobs and that the economy and population of Moray are probably more dependent on the RAF than any other region of the UK.
Mr Stewart cited the example of the support the UK Government had given to Dunoon eighteen years ago when the American Navy base there closed with the loss of 4,500 American personnel to the Argyll and Bute economy.
At that point an economic committee was set up with EU/Government funding to look at alternative economic development for the area.
He said: “There is much that can be learned from both Dunoon and the example of the USA where the Government takes responsibility to rebuilt and reboot local areas when defence bases close.
“This functions as a form of ‘social covenant’ with the local community and I am calling for such a ‘social covenant’ with the people of Moray.
“There need to be a myriad of economic levers to attract inward investment, stimulate local business
initiatives and offer ex RAF and civilian staff retraining and support.”
Mr Stewart asked Finance Secretary John Swinney whether additional funding could be sourced from the European Union for Moray, what the timescale was to create a Special Enterprise Zone status for Moray and whether Scottish Government posts/agencies, such as the Forestry Commission, could be
relocated to the area.
Mr Stewart concluded: “Will he (Mr Swinney) ensure that the UK and Scottish Governments (along with the MOD) work closely to ensure the future of Moray and will he join me in calling for the MOD to recognise a ‘social covenant’ with the people of Moray? ”


Written by davidstewart

November 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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