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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Delay call over Unst RAF closure
RAF Saxa Vord
The RAF station is the island's biggest employer
Community leaders have called on the Ministry of Defence to delay a plan to mothball an RAF base on Britain's most northerly inhabited island.

A total of 100 jobs will be lost at the Saxa Vord early warning base on Unst by April next year.

About 200 people - nearly a third of the island's population - attended a public meeting to express dismay at how quickly the jobs will go.

Local MP Alistair Carmichael wants the eight months notice period extended.

He said the current plans would have a "severe" impact on the local community and economy.

"The timescale drawn up by the MoD is too short - the withdrawal has got to be over a longer period of time," he said.

The decision to mothball the base is part of the MoD's modernisation 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.

Military relocated

Saxa Vord provides the UK with early 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.

About 70 service personnel, 30 civilians and 10 contractors are located there. All the military staff will be relocated within the RAF unless selected for redundancy.

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.

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