Defence chiefs slammed over ‘loan deal’ for sub-hunters

US Navy P-3C Orion arrives at Lossiemouth (Mike Crutch)

The scrapping of the UK’s Maritime Air defence capability while spending £100billion on renewal of Trident nuclear weapons has been described as “utter madness” by Moray’s MP.

Angus Robertson hit out at Ministry of Defence policies that saw the dismantling of the Nimrod renewal project and withdrawal of the RAF from Kinloss – resulting in their having to call in favours from Nato allies to identify a foreign vessel off the coast of the Faslane naval base.

As reported on insideMoray this week, maritime patrol aircraft from France, Canada and the United States were based at RAF Lossiemouth in what is believed to have been a non-exercise operation to detect a submarine that is thought to have been operating just off the Scottish coast.

That prompted anger from the Moray MP and SNP spokesman on Defence at Westminster, who said: “This is hugely embarrassing for the UK which is totally exposed without such critical maritime patrol assets.

“It is not the first time they have had to depend on the goodwill of allies to fill this massive capability gap.

“It is absurd that Scotland as a maritime nation doesn’t have a single Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

“All of our surrounding neighbours have them. It is utter madness that the MoD are going to renew Trident at a cost of £100 billion but not essential conventional kit like these aircraft.”

It has been common practice for Lossiemouth to be used as a base for international maritime aircraft during regular exercises – however, locals were taken by surprise in recent weeks when the sky around the Moray base was busy with a French Navy Atlantique, several US Navy P-3C Orions and a single Canadian CP-140 Aurora.

Joining Mr Robertson in attacking the UK Government over the issue was Angus MacNeil MP, who added: “This is deeply concerning – all of Westminster’s spin about the UK’s international strength has been totally blown out of the water.

“The UK government being at the begging bowl of our defence partners to protect its unusable, mega expensive nuclear weapons would be hugely ironic if it were not also so dangerous.”

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