Moray’s bid to obtain a Sea King on permanent display when the iconic SAR helicopters are withdrawn from service at the end of March has received an ‘encouraging’ response from the Ministry of Defence.
Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart, who is the shadow minister for Transport and the Islands at the Scottish Government, wrote to the MoD outlining the hopes of the Morayvia group securing one of the two Sea Kings currently based at RAF Lossiemouth.
Mr Stewart has received a reply from Philip Dunne MP, a minister at the MoD, indicating that while the process for disposal of the aircraft had yet to be decided Ministers were aware of the interest being taken by the Moray group.
Mr Stewart told insideMoray: “Philip Dunne wrote to me and advised that surplus defence equipment has potentially intrinsic value and therefore it is incumbent on the MOD to achieve the best return for the tax payer.
“He went on to advise that it was not possible to gift a Sea King to the museum and only in exceptional circumstances is such a gift considered.
“The Minister said that the first option is always a Government to Government sale, but where this does not prove viable then other options are explored. Some of these options he said were Private Treaty sale to a full tender exercise where interested parties submit a bid.
“I am reassured that the Minister has stated that he is now fully aware of Morayvia’s interest and if a tendering process was to be offered for the purchase of an aircraft, they will be contacted by the MoD and advised.”
Last night Morayvia’s Chief Executive, Stan Barbour, said that he was grateful for the interest shown by David Stewart and his colleague Rhoda Grant MSP. He added: “We have always understood that gifting of a Sea King was highly unlikely, which is why we started raising funds to purchase and preserve this iconic helicopter.
“Whilst the Minister’s response is understandably non-committal it is nevertheless encouraging that Morayvia might be afforded the opportunity to purchase a Sea King through a Private Treaty sale.
“What is important is that the voice of the people of this area, expressed through its MP and MSPs, has been heard and understood in Westminster. Joanna Lumley and Lorraine Kelly’s support has also been instrumental in getting the people’s message heard.
“Morayvia will now redouble its fund-raising efforts to ensure we can secure this vital piece of heritage so familiar and important to Moray, the Highlands & Islands and the northeast of Scotland.
“Anyone can help by going to the Morayvia website where there are links to our petitions and also a place to make a donation.”