BUDGET airline Ryanair has renewed its interest in using RAF Leuchars as a commercial airport.
The no-frills carrier this week confirmed it would be happy to discuss the possibility with the MoD, should the base be closed as part of defence cuts.
But North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell is standing firm in his belief that the argument for retaining Leuchars as an air base is “unassailable”.
Stephen McNamara, head of communications at Dublin-based Ryanair, told the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen that operating commercial flights from Leuchars had been mooted in the past.
He said: “We are interested in speaking to any airport, and the possibility of using Leuchars is something that has been talked about before.
“It’s very early days for any discussion and the airport would need to approach us, in which case we would happily sit down and explore any potential for flying Ryanair aircraft in and out of the airport.”
Responding, Sir Menzies said the idea had previously been floated by the RAF but was rejected for “a whole variety of reasons”.
He went on: “It’s hard to see how such a project could be viable, but in any event nothing should divert anyone from the obvious conclusion that Leuchars is a strategic necessity for the effective defence of the UK.
“No matter the speculation, the case of Leuchars gets stronger and stronger every day.
“The base is a lynchpin of Britain’s air defence and a centre for defence excellence.
“The strategic argument is unassailable — nothing else will serve Britain’s interests.”
Rumours the base could be sacrificed to save either RAF Lossiemouth in Moray or RAF Marham in Norfolk emerged last month.
A campaign led by Leuchars Community Council has been launched in the village to fight for the base’s future, while a non-political petition created by North East Fife Liberal Democrats has attracted 800 signatures online at www.SaveRafLeuchars.org.uk
North East Fife MSP Iain Smith said the campaign was gathering momentum, in spite of the weather.
“Hundreds of people have signed the petition already and we expect this to rocket over the coming weeks,” he said.
“We also hope to have word from the MoD about the extent of the threat in the near future.”
The campaign has reached Holyrood and Westminster, and last week Fife Council announced it would be producing a report outlining RAF Leuchars’ social and economic importance to the Kingdom.