Kinloss protest campaign grows – but still confusion over ‘threat’

Campaign grows - but confusion surrounds MOD intentions.
Campaign grows – but confusion surrounds MOD intentions.

MORAY POLITICAL PARTIES lined up last night to pledge their support for any community action deemed necessary to secure the future of Kinloss Barracks.

However, it remains unclear what, if any, specific threat faces Kinloss.

Following Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council that included a discussion over the possible threat facing the Moray base, Councillors agreed that a Task Force should be set up by the Moray Economic Partnership.

That would begin with an assessment of the actual situation facing Kinloss Barracks – with little or no information coming from the Ministry of Defence, many councillors are being left to speculate over what MOD intentions are.

Kinloss is believed to be one of several bases being looked at under the Estate Rationalisation Plan published in March this year. That looks at the current MOD estate with a view to releasing land that is no longer required for defence purposes.

A batch of sites under review were named in January and March, with the MOD expecting to announce the final results of their review in the Autumn – however, Kinloss Barracks has not been specified in any published reports to date.

In addition, it is believed that unlike other sites the review is looking at, the defence estate does not actually own Kinloss but rather holds it on a long lease.

Politicians line up in support

The SNP opposition group were first to pledge their support last night – having previously released a statement that made clear their belief that a serious closure threat was being posed for Kinloss.

Group leader Gary Coull said: “With the revelation this week that the MOD is actively looking at the future of Kinloss Barracks we need positive action to deal with that threat to Moray. The base is home to a significant number of military personnel and their families and their presence in Moray is well supported in the local community.

“We need a strong task force representing a wide range of interests to make the case for retention of the base and to look at contingency plans should the outcome be less positive for Moray. The SNP are committed to supporting actions to keep the base at Kinloss.”

Labour councillor Sean Morton remained concerned at the consultation methods employed by MOD, speaking with selected Council and Scottish Government officials with a caveat that they do not reveal any details of these discussions to their elected members.

“People are understandably worried by the possible closure of Kinloss Barracks,” Councillor Sean Morton said, adding: “They want to know that local council leaders are in the loop and that politicians of all stripes are ready to rally behind the base.

“That’s why it’s crucial that the council leadership make it clear to the UK government that it’s elected councillors who run this council – not unelected officers. Never again can we have local democracy undermined in that way.

“At the same time, the Scottish Government must make clear what discussions it has had with the MOD and both governments must make it clear just how real the threat is to Kinloss. Those are real questions that deserve answers from all involved so far.

“It is incredibly important though that this issue doesn’t become a political football. In the past Moray came together to opposite base closures and that’s what we should do now. So while taking to Twitter and Facebook will raise awareness among our own political followers, only everyone getting around the table will get anything done.

“That is why at full council I urged council leaders and our members of parliament to talk to each other across party divides. Face to face, not via press releases. We’ll only save Kinloss if politicians work together. We’ll only save Kinloss if politicians put Moray ahead of party.”

Moray Greens have welcomed the news that the Moray Economic Partnership is to lead the campaign to save Kinloss Barracks should the site be threatened with closure as the MoD reviews its infrastructure.

James MacKessack-Leitch said: “We fully appreciate the contributions service personnel and their families make to Moray, and we are once again ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community to protect Kinloss Barracks from any threat of closure.
“We’ve already seen what people power can achieve in similar circumstances, this is exactly the type of broad based campaign we need to run, and I hope everyone will get behind it should the need arise.

“At the moment the revelations about the future of the barracks have generated more heat than light, and I hope that those in positions of leadership within Moray will ease off the finger pointing, get working to establish some facts, and come together to build a united campaign.”

Video used by the MOD to illustrate what it is trying to do with Defence Estate.

How a week of turmoil for Kinloss has developed

MondayMoray MP Angus Robertson revealed that Kinloss Barracks was on a hit-list being considered for closure in an Estates review by the Ministry of Defence.  Tory Douglas Ross hits back saying there is ‘no decision’ although he admits talks had taken place with the Council, he calls for cross-party unity over the issue.

Tuesday – Defence spokeswoman says that the review covers excess lands sales with property being used for affordable homes – they deny any decision on Kinloss has been taken.  Within hours, Angus Robertson reveals that Moray Council was aware of the threat to Kinloss.  It later emerges that Council officials have been in talks for four months – but that Council leaders say they were only told when the news broke on Monday.  Moray Tory MSP Douglas Ross hits back at SNP, saying the Westminster SNP leader should be ‘ashamed of himself’ for revealing secret talks had taken place.

Wednesday – The SNP Group called on a joint approach led by Moray Council to save Kinloss – at the Full Council meeting this was agreed by all councillors (above).  Councillors then agreed unanimously to request the Moray Economic Partnership form a Task Force and draw together the case for retaining Kinloss Barracks.