Guest Editorial: Maritime defence, schools and fire fighters

The return of Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Moray, a new Elgin High School and the future of the Scottish Fire Service are subjects aired in this guest Editorial diary piece from David Stewart MSP.

Boeing P-8 Poseidon

P-8  Po
P-8 Poseidon

On 23 November 2015, I have today welcomed the news that a new fleet of maritime patrol aircraft is to be based at RAF Lossiemouth.

Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed plans to buy nine new Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review with the aircraft being based at RAF Lossiemouth which was chosen ahead of a base in Lincolnshire.

In 2010, the MOD decided to scrap the replacement MRA4 Nimrod which in effect left a gap in our defence.

I understand that the nine new maritime aircraft will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is excellent news for the North and Moray in particular. The MOD have obviously realised the mistake in the last Strategic Review to scrap our maritime aircraft.

These new planes will fill the gap created by the decision in 2010 to scrap a new MRA4 Nimrod. With the new Typhoons now based at RAF Lossiemouth and now the new maritime aircraft going to be based there, I think we can assume that this base will be safe for years to come.

This will in turn generate a ‘feel good’ factor around the Moray area, with more jobs created, more families moving to the area and the economy of Moray in particular getting a real shot in the arm.

Elgin High School

Delighted to see new High School to be built
Delighted to see new High School is to be built

I was delighted to learn that at last the new Elgin High School will be built starting in the spring at a cost of £28 million.

Work was initially due to start in April and then this summer, but a change in European accounting legislation – known as ESA10 – forced the Scottish Government to stall the project indefinitely after changes to rules that govern non-profit distributing.

Labour councillor John Divers, whose Elgin South ward includes the high school, said: “This has been a long time coming.  I’m delighted for the Head Teacher, staff and pupils who will finally get the building and facilities they deserve.”

Scottish Fire & Rescue Service

Following the concerns being raised by the Fire Brigades Union, I lodged the following motion in Parliament on 2 December. The FBU are quite rightly concerned that they are under unrelenting pressure to save money and so far there are just under 300 less front line Firefighters across Scotland. I will be doing whatever I can to support the FBU.

Here is the text of the motion I lodged:

‘That the Parliament notes the reports that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that it is “gravely concerned” that budget cuts will continue to impact on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service budget and have a detrimental effect on 999 response times and the vital lifesaving service that firefighters provide; notes claims that 300 fewer firefighters are on duty since the national service was created in 2013; understands that reassurance was given by ministers that the establishment of a single fire and rescue service would not result in reductions to frontline services; notes the FBU’s concern at the “unrelenting pressure” to save money, which, it is claimed, is “impacting on the delivery of frontline services”; considers that the job that firefighters and support staff carry out is invaluable to communities throughout the Highlands and Islands and across Scotland; condemns what it sees as the Scottish Government’s underfunding of the service, and notes calls for ministers to take immediate steps to protect the future of frontline firefighters and the service’s support staff.’