An MSP who has launched a last-ditch effort to retain a vital rescue coordination centre in Moray says he has been encouraged by the response from Scotland’s First Minister.
Highlands & Islands and Moray Labour MSP David Stewart tabled a question to the First Minister asking what discussions the Scottish Government had with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) regarding the planned closures of the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) at Kinloss Barracks.
The First Minister responded by advising that she did not support the closure plans and that they were disproportionate. She added that the Scottish Government were not alerted to these closure plans and there had been no discussion with the MoD.
Now a cross-party campaign is being launched to retain the centre in Moray – with Moray MSP Richard Lochhead saying that the UK Government should reverse the “absurd decision” to move the ARCC from Kinloss.
David Stewart said: “I was happy with the response from the First Minister in Parliament and I asked if the Scottish Government would join an 11th hour Cross Party bid to halt the closure of the ARCC and hold talks with the UK Government to avert this closure.
“She said she would be delighted to convene cross party discussions on this important issue.
“I do not see any benefit in moving the ARCC from Kinloss to Fareham. The Centre has been based at Kinloss since 1997, 27 RAF staff and ten civilians will be affected by the decision and I am not convinced they will willingly move south in which case vital skills and experience will be lost.
“I am advised that new faster helicopters will be used to cut average response times and provide a more reliable overall service.”
However, the MSP questioned why the new civilian helicopter service, which replaces the RAF Sea Kings in March, needed to be based at Inverness Airport in the first place.
He said: “Why could these faster helicopters not be based at Lossiemouth as per the current practice and the ARCC at Kinloss be upgraded if that is what is required?”