Fears are being expressed that plans to sell off a fuel pipeline linking Moray’s military facilities to a national distribution system will compromise operations at the Moray bases.
Plans by the Ministry of Defence to sell the Gas Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS) were first announced in 2013 – now it has been revealed that defence ministers are to press ahead with the sale with Spanish firm Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos (CLH) identified as the preferred buyer in an £82million deal.
The GPSS network consists of 2500km of pipeline linking around 46 facilities and was first built during the second world war to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies to key installations.
In Moray the system links RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks with semi-buried fuel storage tanks to the east side of the B9168 Longman Drive in Inverness. The depot also supplies aviation fuel to Inverness Airport by road.
Up to 80 staff currently employed by the Oil and Pipeline Agency will become CLH employees when the deal is completed at the end of April.
While the MoD have insisted that the contract with CLH would protect the supply of aviation fuel to military bases for the first ten years at a cost of £237million, Moray’s MP and the SNP spokesman on defence issues at Westminster insisted it would have a “detrimental effect” on the Moray bases.
Angus Robertson said: “This sale of this pipeline by the UK government was wholly unnecessary and will have a detrimental effect on RAF Lossiemouth and its operations.
“If the commercial operator were to break the contract how would the UK Government compensate for the RAF not receiving enough fuel in a crisis?
“The pipes also run under agricultural land and so the sale raises issues of access if the landowners do not allow their land to be used for commercial purposes.”
However, Defence minister Philip Dunne insisted the deal represented “value for money”: “Signing the deal with CLH has generated a major capital receipt while safeguarding supply of aviation fuel to both military and civil customers throughout the UK.”