LOCAL POLITICIANS INSIST that they will continue in their fight to save Kinloss Barracks from closure – despite no clear indication of a threat to the Moray base existing.
A statement from defence ministers published on Tuesday named a further 13 military establishments in the UK where land would we sold to make way for new housing.
However, none of those are in Scotland – casting serious doubts over claims that Kinloss Barracks was being lined up for closure.
Last month, following revelations by SNP MP Angus Robertson that Kinloss was one of the establishments being considered in the land sale and that secret talks had taken place with Moray Council officials, a new task force was formed by the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP) to lead the fight against any closure plans for the base.
Chairman of the MEP, Councillor John Cowe, last night insisted that Tuesday’s announcement did not mean that Kinloss was safe – despite clear knowledge that the land was not required for housing in Moray and serious doubts exist over its suitability in any case with it likely that millions would be required to clear historic contamination of the land.
Councillor Cowe said: “We have always anticipated there would be a series of announcements from the MoD, and today’s statement does not mean Kinloss is safe. As we’ve said before, closure of the barracks could have a significant impact, particularly after the loss of RAF Kinloss and the downturn in the oil and gas industry.
“We remain determined that Kinloss will stay open but if closure is to be imposed upon us we need to be prepared for it. As we’ve learned from the Brexit vote, people expect their leaders to have a plan B for any scenario.
“Given that responsibility and tasked with securing and growing the economy in Moray, we will be exploring all options to protect the future well-being of the Moray community. However, planning for the economic loss closure of Kinloss would bring is not a simple task, and we would require significant government support to deliver the equivalent level of economic activity
“What would help would be greater clarity on timescales and options, and we continue to seek the consultation promised in April by the MoD.”
Moray’s SNP MP and MSP both responded last night by insisting that more base closures were to follow, with Angus Robertson saying: “This announcement is just the latest in a series of announcements of base closures with more announcements expected.
“These closures are just a fraction of the billion pound target for land disposal that has been set by the MoD. With further announcements expected within weeks we need to redouble our efforts to make sure Kinloss remains in use as a military base and that the Tory Government keeps the promises that were made to Moray in the wake of the loss of thousands of RAF personnel just a few short years ago.”
His Holyrood colleague Richard Lochhead MSP added: “With significant base closures expected to be announced in the coming weeks we cannot ease up on making the case for retention of Kinloss Barracks.
“The UK Government is drip feeding bad news on the sell off of defence bases with their target being a billion pounds worth of property sales. Until we know that the final announcement has been made we cannot afford to back off the defence of Kinloss Barracks.”
Moray Labour spokesman, Councillor Sean Morton, welcomed the MoD statement, saying: “Everyone in Moray can breathe a sigh of relief that it appears unlikely Kinloss Barracks will be closing any time soon.
“However, the Council and local leaders will have to keep as watchful an eye as ever on the situation to make sure we retain our bases.
“People all across Moray were alarmed when our MP said an “impeccable source” told him Kinloss faced imminent closure. It would be better in future if politicians were 100% sure of the facts before causing such widespread alarm in future.
“If leaders from across the political spectrum remain calm and focussed we will be able to ensure Kinloss Barracks as well as RAF Lossiemouth continue to play a vital role in Moray and the local economy.”
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