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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
'No funds' for closing radar base
RAF Saxa Vord
The RAF station's closure means the island needs help
The Ministry of Defence has said there is no money on the table to help the Shetland community of Unst, when the RAF closes its radar base next April.

More than 100 jobs will go when the Saxa Vord early warning station closes.

Councillors, along with local MP Alistair Carmichael, took their case to Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram in London on Wednesday.

Mr Ingram did pledge to work with other government agencies to help the community adjust to the changes.

The minister now plans to visit the island to see for himself the effect the withdrawal of the RAF will have on the community.

Meanwhile, Shetland Enterprise is to set a special response team in Unst to help the community develop new businesses.

The move to mothball the base was part of overhaul plans for the armed forces.

Defence Secretary John Reid has said that the need for Saxa Vord, which opened in 1957, had diminished since the end of the Cold War.

MoD attacked

The base has been the main pillar of the island's economy for nearly 50 years, but it became redundant when the Cold War ended.

Mr Carmichael, who represents the Northern Isles, said eight months was too short notice for islanders to prepare for the loss of a quarter of its population and the period should be extended.

The MP, who said the plans would have a "severe" impact on the local community and economy, added that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could not "just turn the key in the door and walk away".

Officials at the MoD replied that they were funded by the taxpayer to meet defence needs.

Advance warning

They added, however, they were happy to work with the Scottish Executive to examine ways to help the community adjust to the changes.

The MoD said efforts would be made to help civilian staff find employment with other government departments in the area although it said opportunities were likely to be limited.

Saxa Vord provides the UK with advance warning of aircraft approaching from the north for the Integrated Command and Control System.

Mr Reid said the radar coverage required by the RAF could be provided from elsewhere in Scotland, augmented by the National Air Traffic Service radar picture.

The station will be placed on a care-and-maintenance basis, meaning it is effectively closed but that the operational part of the site could be reactivated if required.




SEE ALSO:
Delay call over Unst RAF closure
28 Jul 05 |  Scotland
Jobs crisis spurs on Shetlanders
21 Jul 05 |  Scotland
RAF to shut island radar station
21 Jul 05 |  Scotland
Task force tackling job cutbacks
03 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Ingram visits jobs shake-up base
26 May 05 |  Scotland


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