Moray was placed firmly into the referendum debate firing line when the UK’s Defence Secretary brought a long-running war of words onto the local patch of Moray’s MP.
Philip Hammond has exchanged angry words with Angus Robertson MP over defence issues in the House of Commons – now the Defence Secretary is telling Moray constituents that they should vote No in the forthcoming referendum as it would ensure a “bright and stable future” for RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks.
Mr Hammond has insisted that only by voting No will people in Moray have the peace of mind of knowing that the defence footprint in the area would grow.
But that was a step too far for Mr Robertson, who angrily pointed out that successive Westminster governments had already reduced the military footprint in Scotland by 10,000 in recent years.
Mr Robertson also pointed out that it was the current government who called a halt to the Nimrod maritime aircraft development – and shut down RAF operations at Kinloss, leaving the UK ‘dangerously exposed’ to future risk.
The Scottish Government has said that they will retain Kinloss Barracks and RAF Lossiemouth – the latter as a base for 12 Typhoon Jets and aircraft meeting the maritime air capability.
Making his appeal to Moray voters, Mr Hammond said: “Kinloss and Lossiemouth has a bright and secure future under the UK Government plans.
“The numbers of Army personnel at Kinloss are increasing and the Typhoon force is moving into Lossiemouth as one of only three fast jet bases across the UK. Unpicking centuries of shared security and prosperity would damage both Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
However, Mr Robertson, who also acts as the SNP’s defence spokesman at Westminster, hit back by saying: “The defence secretary talks about protecting bases but it is successive UK governments, including his own, that have reduced uniformed personnel in Scotland from 25,000 to 15,000 in the last few years.
“It is also abundantly clear from campaigns against base closures in defence communities like Lossiemouth that the people value and support our armed forces, and we will continue to do so before independence, after independence and long into the future.
“Following independence it will be in all our interests to work together in a partnership approach.”