Speaking during a debate on the Armed Forces Bill today (Monday) Westminster SNP Leader and Defence spokesman Angus Robertson has called for major changes to the way the UK Government addresses military base closures.
The Moray MP who represents the most defence dependent constituency in the UK says the Westminster Government should establish an expert commission to examine future base closures and automatically support communities affected by the closures of military facilities.
The proposals mirror the system currently operating in the United States, where a Commission considers base realignment and closures before Congress votes on the recommendations. The US Department of Defense also has a ‘Department of Economic Adjustment’ which gives significant support to communities impacted by closure decisions.
Last December Mr Robertson visited the United States and met with senior lawmakers, members of the Commission for Base Realignment and Closures and the Director of the Office for Economic Adjustment (OEA) to learn about the transparent way in which the US decides on changes to military basing and supports communities impacted by the changes.
Angus Robertson met Senator John Webb, the long-serving Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Westminster SNP Leader also met with officials of the Commission which manages US military base realignments and closures (BRAC), including Brigadier General David Hague. Together with Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary and Moray MSP Richard Lochhead he also met Patrick O’Brien, the Director of the Office of Economic Adjustment.
Since the Ministry of Defence announced the closure of RAF Kinloss and threat to RAF Lossiemouth ten weeks ago, no financial assistance has been provided by the UK government to support Moray. Campaigners from Moray will tomorrow present a 30,000 strong signature petition to Downing Street on the future of RAF Lossiemouth.
Speaking after his intervention, Mr Robertson said:
“The way the UK Government manages the closure and realignment of military facilities is inappropriate for the 21st century. Decisions are taken in secret with little or no independent oversight and the communities impacted by closure decisions are left unsupported.
“In contrast the United States has a transparent decision-making system and a mechanism which takes proper responsibility of defence communities.
“It’s now almost three months since the Defence Secretary published the Strategic Defence and Security Review, yet we are no further forward in getting any clarity around final base closure decisions or what support and assistance the UK Government intend to provide to communities affected by closures or downsizing.
“The decisions in the SDSR have a considerable impact for Scotland, and there is extreme concern at the threat to the Scottish economy, and particularly to the economy in Moray, following the MoD’s decision to withdraw the RAF from Kinloss and the uncertainty which remains for the future of RAF Lossiemouth. It’s also clear that other Scottish bases could yet be impacted by the UK Government’s final decision process.
“The UK Government needs a totally new approach to military base closures."