Arrival of army in Leuchars to take three years

TS EN 18/07/2011. LEUCHARS, FIFE: The front gate of RAF Leuchars air base in Fife. The UK Coalition Government has announced the withdrawal of the RAF from Leuchars as part of cuts in defence spending.
TS EN 18/07/2011. LEUCHARS, FIFE: The front gate of RAF Leuchars air base in Fife. The UK Coalition Government has announced the withdrawal of the RAF from Leuchars as part of cuts in defence spending.

LEUCHARS could be facing up to three years without a major military presence, it has been revealed.

In a letter to North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell, Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox confirmed that while preparations will begin straight away at Lossiemouth to prepare for the arrival of the Typhoons, Leuchars is set to remain as a “working RAF base until 2014”.

The formation headquarters for the army should be in place before 2015 with the major units to follow.

But the Defence Secretary admits in his letter that it could take until 2017 for that to happen.

That is sure to cause further concern in a community still coming to terms with the implications of losing the RAF base that has been a permanent fixture in the area for almost 100 years.

Commenting on the possible three year gap, Sir Menzies said: “This is a matter of profound concern.

“It is clear that at the very least there will be a slow build-up of army numbers at Leuchars.

“The local community now faces a period of considerable uncertainty and upheaval.

“The Secretary of State calls for patience and understanding from all concerned.

“These may be in short supply but the Task Force will continue to hold the Ministry of Defence to the undertakings previously given.”

The letter from the defence secretary comes after fellow cabinet minister Danny Alexander has been asked to explain his role is the recent decision over base closures.

In an interview last week, Sir Menzies suggested that Mr Alexander, a fellow Liberal Democrat, may have used his position as chief secretary to the Treasury to lobby for the retention of RAF Lossiemouth, near his own parliamentary constituency.

That claim led other local politicians to call for Mr Alexander, a key member of the UK coalition government, to explain his actions.

New North East Fife MSP Rod Campbell MSP said that using his position as a minister to influence the decision would mean Mr Alexander had breached the ministerial code.

“If Danny Alexander played any role as a minister in any of the decisions that led to the closure of Leuchars in order to protect Lossiemouth then he will have clearly broken the rules,” he said.

“The SNP argued for both Leuchars and Lossiemouth because both bases served key strategic roles.

“Danny Alexander only had Lossiemouth on his mind and in what seems to have been an increasingly bitter battle with the Lib Dems he may have sacrificed Leuchars in order to protect Lossiemouth.”

Dunfermline and West Fife MSP Thomas Docherty has written to the Ministry of Defence asking for details of any contact or correspondence they had with the Treasury over the basing review.