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Brian Wilson, Scotland Office Minister
"We will work to minimise the negative effects"
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BBC Scotland's Colin Wight reports
"RAF Buchan has been a vital part of Britain's defence system"
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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Cuts strike at RAF base
RAF Buchan
A campaign was launched to retain the station
The Ministry of Defence has announced job losses with the partial closure of RAF Buchan.

The Aberdeenshire base has been part of the military's Air Surveillance and Control System (Asacs) but a review means the loss of 55 civilian jobs and the transfer of over 200 RAF staff.

The MoD said its early warning function would now be carried out by two other bases in the UK and Buchan would maintain its role as a radar surveillance post.

RAF operative
Buchan will lose main surveillance role

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the decision to partially close Buchan was the result of a combination of technological developments and cost-cutting.

The job losses would mainly affect staff working on the Asacs system and would begin in April 2003, with the redundancies expected to be completed in November 2004.

Around 92 military and civilian personnel would remain to operate the radar system at the base, near Peterhead.

Two other bases, at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland and RAF Neatishead in Norfolk,would continue to operate the surveillance and control system.

Defence officials had been carrying out a review of the base, which was requested by Armed Forces Minister John Spellar.

Local economy

The decision confirmed the worst fears of those who have been campaigning to preserve jobs.

Campaigners said the base has been generating an estimated 10m a year for the local economy.

The base was opened in 1952 as an Air Defence Radar Unit and operates as one of the United Kingdom's two fully operational Control and Reporting Centres (CRC).

It monitors air traffic from a line roughly north of Newcastle, with RAF Neatishead, in Norfolk, covering the southern airspace.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: "Disgraceful decision"

Reserve CRC capability has been available at RAF Boulmer.

The MoD said the decision would save around 5m a year and follows a survey of staff at the Scottish and Norfolk bases.

Neatishead Station Commander, Group Captain Rich Jones, said military personnel accepted they have to move around, but over 80% nominated Norfolk as their preferred base.

Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond, the MP for Banff and Buchan, described the partial closure of RAF Buchan as "disgraceful".

He said he would be seeking an urgent meeting with the MoD to discuss the impact on the local economy.

'Rationalisation decision'

Mr Salmond said he suspected the MoD had made up its mind, regardless of the strength of the arguments put forward by campaigners in the Peterhead area.

Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson said the MoD had to make a "rationalisation decision".

However, he stressed that the move had to be set against the UK Government's announcements on the Eurofighter missile systems and air transport contracts, which would safeguard thousands of jobs.

He said: "I know that the decision will be disappointing in the north east.

"Although the number of civilian jobs is relatively small, the military jobs also make an input to the local economy.

"I am sure we can work with the local community and local leaders to ensure that by the time this takes full effect in 2004, the negative side has been minimised."

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