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Moray the battleground as MPs look to military future

Moray the battleground as MPs look to military future

A furious row broke out last night after UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond urged people in Moray to reject independence for Scotland.

The Conservative MP claimed voting No in the referendum on September 18 would ensure a “bright, secure and stable future” for RAF Lossiemouth and the Kinloss Barracks, which employ thousands of people.

Mr Hammond said the move would give local people “peace of mind” that the defence footprint in Moray would increase if the UK was kept intact.

But his assessment was angrily rejected by Moray MP Angus Robertson, who said the number of military jobs in the region had been slashed under successive Westminster governments.

The SNP defence spokesman also pointed out that it was the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which had ended the Nimrod “flying role” at Kinloss.

Westminster’s defence select committee said last month that the loss of hundreds of military jobs in Moray could leave the country dangerously exposed in a future crisis.

It said the strategy had been driven by the Ministry of Defence’s need to fit a “financial envelope” rather than any proper assessment of potential threats.

There been a reported 28% drop in personnel at Moray’s bases in the last three years.

The Scottish Government has pledged to keep open the Kinloss Barracks and base a minimum of 12 Typhoon jets at Lossiemouth in the event of independence.

Mr Hammond said: “Kinloss and Lossiemouth have a bright, secure and stable future under the UK Government’s plans.

“The numbers of Army personnel at Kinloss are increasing and the Typhoon force is moving into Lossiemouth, as one of only three fast jet bases across the UK. Unpicking centuries of shared security and prosperity would damage both Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Mr Robertson insisted that military bases in Moray would be better protected in an independent Scotland.

“The defence secretary talks about protecting bases,” he said, “but it is successive UK governments, including his own, that have reduced uniformed and civilian military personnel in Scotland from 25,000 to just 15,000 in the last few years.

“It is also abundantly clear from campaigns against base closures in defence communities like Lossiemouth that the people value and support our armed forces, and we will continue to do so before independence, after independence and long into the future.

“Following a Yes vote in September it will be in all our interests to work together in a partnership approach.”

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