North East Fife MSP, Roderick Campbell, has condemned the uncertainty over the future of the RAF Leuchars air station and accused the Ministry of Defence of ‘‘dithering’’ over making a decision as to when the Army might establish a barracks there.
Mr Campbell has rapped the continued uncertainty for the Fife community and ramped up calls for the UK Government to set out a schedule for the changeover of Leuchars to an army base.
His calls come as debate gets underway over the future defence priorities of an independent Scotland - Mr Campbell has welcomed the discussions over the shape of a future Scottish Defence Force - following the announcement of plans by the Scottish Government for a referendum in 2014.
The UK Government’s Strategic Defence Review and, last year, the Basing Review confirmed the massive and disproportionate defence cuts to the RAF and Royal Marines in Scotland – leaving the country with just one RAF base.
The SNP MSP told the Citizen: ”The UK Government must end the uncertainty for people in Fife and set out a clear timetable for the transition of Leuchars from RAF to Army base.
“As a result of UK cuts, which have seen 10,500 job losses and a mammoth £5.6 billion defence underspend over the last decade, Scotland has been left with just one functional air base. The scale of the decline is striking because - in contrast to conventional wisdom about a significant and well-funded UK defence presence in Scotland - the facts are entirely different.
“In this context the period leading up to the referendum in 2014 is to be welcomed as an opportunity to debate the defence opportunities offered by independence for our community and for Scotland.
“Scotland already has military personnel, equipment and infrastructure – what has been lacking is proper investment, with much of Scottish taxpayers’ contribution to defence not currently spent here. With independence, Scotland can and will match the defence spending and capabilities of Norway and comparable European neighbours, providing professional, conventional forces with Scotland’s current level of contribution to the MOD.
‘‘With independence there will be a real boost to defence, providing broader capabilities in Scotland.
“It has become increasingly clear that, far from Scotland benefiting from a defence dividend from the Union, we have in fact been victim of a defence downturn. The disastrous decisions for Scotland made by Westminster demonstrate the modern benefits and opportunities offered by independence.
“The perceived disadvantages of independence are no more than chimeras in the modern world. On the basis of mutual interest, it is perfectly reasonable to envisage circumstances in which we share basing, procurement and training facilities with the rest of the present UK – our foremost friend and ally under all constitutional arrangements – in exactly the same way as defence co-operation exists across Scandinavia.”
Mr Campbell also highlighted an assessment by Professor Malcolm Chalmers, of the Royal United Services Institute. that showed a Scottish Defence Force would cost some £2.2 billion – approximately £1 billion less that Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to defence spending in the UK.
He added: ”Currently, Scotland overpays for its defence requirements, and yet the MoD has managed to create a capability gap with no helicopters, transport or maritime patrol aircraft proposed for Scotland. Following independence, we could spend ourmoney more effectively on what is required to ensure territorial defence and supporting allies when required.
“I will continue to fight for future guarantees with regard to Leuchars in the meantime, however, and would urge the Westminster coalition and MoD to publish a timetable for the Army moving into the air base.”