Closing RAF Leuchars would ‘devastate’ north east Fife economy

RAF Leuchars campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament.
RAF Leuchars campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament.

CLOSING RAF Leuchars would have a ‘devastating’ effect on the north east Fife economy.

That’s according to a report prepared by Fife Council and submitted to the UK’s defence secretary this week.

The dossier, which details the impact closure would have on jobs, businesses, schools and house prices, was delivered by courier to Dr Liam Fox in the hope of persuading the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to retain the air base amid spending cuts.

The report reveals that RAF Leuchars supports 1900 jobs and contributes £60m annually to the Fife economy.

Small local businesses, it says, would face closure without the support of military personnel.

Children from RAF families account for two-thirds of the roll at Leuchars Primary School, as well as 40 per cent at Guardbridge and nearly 10 per cent at Madras College.

According to the report, closing the base would ‘undoubtedly’ call into question the viability of Leuchars Primary.

Endorsing the document, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “RAF Leuchars, like RAF Lossiemouth, is of national importance.

“I am proud to endorse this submission which underlines the crucial importance of RAF Leuchars to the local community and beyond.

“The case for the retention of RAF Leuchars is compelling on defence, economic and social grounds.

“I hope that the UK government and MoD provide a positive and speedy response.”

The report warns shutting Leuchars would be a ‘devastating blow’, given the area has already lost two major employers in Guardbridge paper mill and the Torith building firm, with Cupar’s Wiseman Dairies depot currently under threat.

The base employs 1200 people directly — both service personnel and civilian staff — and another 700 indirectly.

It it also thought tourism would suffer through the loss of the annual air show, while it is feared the release of 700 RAF homes and other privately owned accommodation would depress the housing market even further.

In a joint statement, North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell and MSP Iain Smith hailed the report as ‘an important document’.

They said: “This is an important document which we are delighted to endorse.

“It clearly sets out the contribution that RAF Leuchars makes to the economy of Fife and the surrounding areas.

“It demonstrates that the case for the retention of RAF Leuchars is not restricted to the defence case alone.

“The socio-economic case gets more compelling by the page.”

Carroll Finnie, chair of Leuchars Community Council, added: “The RAF Leuchars base is at the heart of the community and has been for over 70 years.

“The loss of the RAF in Leuchars would have a devastating effect on the area.”