Defence review must task maritime aircraft back to Scotland

US Navy P3C Orion arriving at Lossiemouth in November (pic: Mike Crutch)

MARITIME PATROL AIRCRAFT should be a priority for the UK Government – and they should be based in Scotland.

That was the assertion from Angus Robertson MP when he spoke at an event hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in advance of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) being published later this year.

The Moray MP insisted that the UK Government had failed to take “northern regional security seriously enough” – insisting that this should change with the new SDSR.

Since the withdrawal of the Nimrod replacement maritime patrol aircraft and removal of the RAF from their Moray base at Kinloss, there has been increasing foreign military operations close to UK territorial waters and airspace – with the UK forces having to “rely on intelligence from Scottish fishing vessels and social media” according to Mr Robertson.

In his speech he told the RUSI: “While all our northern regional neighbours make defence, security and stability in our region a key priority, the UK has not. The UK did not even mention the High North and Arctic in the last SDSR. This must change.

“The UK has the only armed forces in northern Europe without Maritime Patrol Aircraft, has not taken part in NATO northern maritime patrol groups for years and has never taken part in NATO northern air policing which is based in Iceland.

“The Royal Navy bases all of its ocean-going patrol vessels on the south coast of England and has repeatedly had gaps in their cover for UK waters.

“In recent years we have seen increasing foreign military operations close to UK territorial waters and airspace, and the UK armed forces have been known to rely on intelligence from Scottish fishing vessels and social media as they have not had the appropriate assets in place in time.”

The MP added that the SDSR should signal a more serious approach to northern regional defence, saying: “The Ministry of Defence must procure Maritime Patrol Aircraft and base them in Scotland which is closest to where they are needed most.

“The MoD should permanently station ocean-going conventional patrol vessels on the Clyde to be close to northern waters. The MoD has to agree a step change in UK engagement with regional allies in regional defence tasking.

“Scotland is a northern maritime nation and it is shocking that UK government needs to be shamed into taking its northern defence responsibilities seriously.”

Several maritime patrol aircraft from NATO allies have operated from RAF Lossiemouth over the last year, believed to have been in response to incursions by foreign submarines around the Scottish coastline.