The Ministry of Defence has confirmed the date when the Kinloss Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) is to close.
Ministers announced in December that the ARCC was to be transferred to Fareham in Hampshire with the facility at Kinloss, which has been in operation since 1997, closing down completely.
Now officials at the MoD have said that the ARCC will continue at Kinloss until no later than March 2016 when the switch.
Last night an MoD spokeswoman confirmed the timetable for the transfer, saying: “The MoD’s ARCC facility current based at Kinloss Barracks will transfer from the MoD to the Department of Transport in a phased approach to be completed no later than March 31, 2016.
“It has been agreed that the ARCC function will be relocated from Kinloss Barracks to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham in a phased transition under the auspices of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.”
The statement added that RAF personnel would be assigned to new duties at RAF stations throughout the UK or leave the service at their natural exit points, while work was “ongoing” to decide if the 10 civilian posts at Kinloss would transfer to Fareham.
Aviation experts have said it will not have a significant effect on rescue services as the global position of the ARCC has no real operational bearing. Airborne rescue elements are already being assumed from the end of this month by civilian contractors, taking over from the RAF and Royal Navy Sea King force which are being withdrawn from service.
However, Moray MP Angus Robertson insists that confirmation of the ARCC move is another demonstration of defence jobs being removed from Scotland.
He said: “When the closure of the ARCC at Kinloss and transfer of its operations to Fareham was announced I condemned it as disproportionate, especially following on, as it does, from the crazy scrapping of the Nimrods.
“The loss of these highly skilled personnel from Moray just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Kinloss ARCC performs a critical lifesaving role in co-ordinating rescues and there seems little rhyme or reason for the move to Fareham and no reasonable explanation of why it shouldn’t remain at Kinloss.
“UK politicians have constantly pointed to the benefits of defence jobs to Scotland’s economy, yet they continue to cut one defence facility after another taking thousands of jobs out of Moray and the rest of Scotland. It is just wrong.”