Case for Leuchars is ‘overwhelming’

26/05/05, TSPL, SCOTSMAN, NEWS, MILITARY,   RAF LOSSIEMOUTH. TORNADO SQUADRON ON THE RUNWAY AT RAF LOSSIEMOUTH, NEAR ELGIN. IAN RUTHERFORD.
26/05/05, TSPL, SCOTSMAN, NEWS, MILITARY, RAF LOSSIEMOUTH. TORNADO SQUADRON ON THE RUNWAY AT RAF LOSSIEMOUTH, NEAR ELGIN. IAN RUTHERFORD.
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LOCAL politicians have mounted a passionate defence of RAF Leuchars in the Scottish parliament.

In an emergency debate called by Fife-based MSP Ted Brocklebank, members from all major parties across the Kingdom rallied round to state the case for retaining Leuchars as an airbase.

Amid speculation Leuchars could face the axe as part of defence spending cuts, Mr Brocklebank opened the debate by saying many people in north east Fife faced an “agonising” Christmas thanks to the rumours.

He went on: “No matter how proud the base’s history and no matter how serious the likely local economic impact of its closure, I believe that the Ministry of Defence must base its ultimate decisions on what is right for the future air defences of the United Kingdom.

CAPABILITY

“I have already written to the secretary of state for defence, Dr Liam Fox, and I will be writing to him again to hammer home this message.

“I believe that, by any logical yardstick, be it cost-efficiency or future strategic capability, the case for the retention of RAF Leuchars is overwhelming.”

Echoing Mr Brocklebank’s use of the word ‘overwhelming’ to describe the argument for saving Leuchars, North East Fife MSP Iain Smith added: “Since 2005, RAF Leuchars has engaged around 50 times with foreign aircraft attempting to enter our airspace.

“If ultimately necessary, fighter aircraft from RAF Leuchars can be over Edinburgh or Glasgow in a matter of minutes.

“It can provide a rapid response to air threats to tier one targets such as Torness nuclear power station, petro-chemical plants and major cities.

“The reasons that led to RAF Leuchars being chosen as the right location for the new Typhoon fighter remain the same reasons why it is the right location today.”

Mr Smith called on first minister Alex Salmond to give assurances that the government would campaign to save Leuchars with the same commitment as RAF Lossiemouth, which is also under threat.

Fellow Fife MSPs Tricia Marwick, Claire Baker, Murdo Fraser and Helen Eadie also gave Leuchars their backing during the debate, which concluded with Bruce Crawford, minister for parliamentary business, insisting the Scottish Government would be fighting for the retention of all the country’s RAF bases.