Leuchars taskforce step up their defence strategy

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THE taskforce spearheading the campaign to save RAF Leuchars has written to Prime Minister David Cameron outlining the case for sparing the historic air base.

With a decision on the fate of Leuchars due imminently as part of a defence spending review, campaigners are stepping up their bid to ensure the RAF remains in north east Fife.

This week task force vice-chair Carroll Finnie appealed to Mr Cameron on behalf of the group through Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, who visited the base during her election campaign.

Mrs Finnie wrote: “Following the publication of the UK Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010, there has been ongoing speculation and uncertainty over the future of RAF Leuchars with a decision anticipated by the summer.

“A task force was formed — the Residents Action Force Leuchars — to co-ordinate a campaign locally and nationally to mobilise celebrity, public and community support for the base and to present a compelling case for the retention of the RAF in Leuchars.”

So far the campaign has involved task force trips to Downing Street and Westminster, backed up by a paper petition of 7000 signatures and more than 20,000 online supporters on Facebook.

Earlier this year the campaign attracted celebrity support in the form of ‘famous Fifers’ including Hollywood actor Dougray Scott, musicians The Proclaimers and author Ian Rankin.

Mrs Finnie went on: “In defence terms, the role of RAF Leuchars is considered to be a fundamental and vital component in the defence of UK airspace given its prime strategic defence position and the significant investment in the base in recent years.

“RAF Leuchars is crucial in delivering the UK’s quick reaction alert capability for the north of the UK — aircraft are on high alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to intercept unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace.”

Typhoon fighter jets from Leuchars are currently involved in the UN mission in Libya, helping patrol the no-fly zone over the country.

The base’s proximity to potential terrorist targets in central Scotland has previously been cited by North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell as evidence of its ideal strategic position.

Sir Menzies himself wrote to Mr Cameron this week reminding him of the “unanswerable” defence case for retaining RAF Leuchars.

Addressing rumours the base could be turned into an army barracks housing troops returning from Germany, he said: “I am aware that alternative military uses for Leuchars are under consideration.

“No advantage derived from basing army units at Leuchars can possibly outweigh the strategic contribution which the base in its current RAF role makes to the first duty of any government — namely the proper protection of the citizens of the United Kingdom.

“The preferences of the potential alternative occupant of the base such as army units returning from Germany should not be allowed to undermine that duty.”

In her letter to the Prime Minister, Mrs Finnie added that the impact on the local and regional economy would be “devastating”, following a Fife Council report which put Leuchars’ contribution at £60 million a year and 2500 jobs.

Shehighlighted the loss of Curtis Fine Papers, construction firm Torith and Wiseman Dairies in recent years, arguing that small businesses in the area would face closure without the support of the base.

She went on: “The RAF forms an important part of the local community in Leuchars and the surrounding area, supporting both the military and local communities through activities including child care provision, sports clubs and activities for children and youth groups.

“Children of RAF families account for a significant proportion of the area’s primary and secondary school rolls, particularly in Leuchars.

“The children have been raising their own concerns on the future of the RAF base, with many of them worried that they will lose not only their friends but also the well used out-of-school activities that the base provides.

“Some of the children had also stated aspirations to work at the base in a civilian capacity in the future and are now worried about their own futures should the base close.”