Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 16:20 UK

Verbal volleys in rocket jobs row

Anger, disappointment and pledges to fight job cuts have followed the announcement on proposed job cuts at Scottish test firing ranges.

More than half the workforce at four ranges and their control centre in the Hebrides could go.

Politicians, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have spoken out on the plans.

Here is a snapshot of reaction and comment so far:

UK GOVERNMENT

Defence Minister Quentin Davies: "I know that this will be very disappointing news for the staff at our ranges, and I do not underestimate the impact these proposals and job losses will have on the Hebrides community, especially in the current recession.

"These are tough decisions to make but the financial reasons for making the changes are compelling, and we do hope this will secure a long term future for operations on the Hebrides and other ranges in Scotland.

"We do welcome comments and ideas from the community during the consultation period and will consider any alternative workable solutions.

"We will also ensure most of the changes take place over three or four years which will allow people to find new postings or jobs.

"We have a responsibility to ensure taxpayers money and the defence budget is spent wisely, and as defence evolves and technology advances, we must adjust our operations accordingly."

SNP

Alasdair Allan MSP: "If this is supposed to be consultation with the community by the UK Government and its contractor, why did the workforce here have to rely on the local media to learn of their fate?

"We must now all work together to make the UK Government understand the terrible consequences these job losses would have for Uist at such economically tough times. The MoD must either be prepared to reconsider, or provide an indication of how they will rebuild the economy in Uist after them."

Angus MacNeil MP: "The range in Uist is clearly the best of their type in the UK if not in Europe, and the MoD have to explain whether they are satisfied for their contractors to withdraw so much of their activity from it.

"I have already raised this with the UK Government and will do so again with the Commons select Committee on Defence. Uist people have given their full cooperation to the bases over the decades and now deserve fair treatment in return."

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar SNP group leader Donald Manford: "Today confirms what has been feared for some days now - the UK Government is prepared to preside over massive job losses in Uist.

"This is devastating news for this community, which has cooperated with the Ministry of Defence and its contractors for over 50 years, and come to depend heavily on them for work."

LABOUR

Peter Peacock, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP:

"This is a very disappointing development and represents a real blow to the economy of the islands.

"It is not clear to me whether this is a move initiated by QinetiQ to maximise their convenience and profits within an existing contract framework, or is being driven by specific defence needs.

"It is hard to see how it is driven by defence needs as the Uists and Raasay are facilities which offers a unique combination of assets that it seems to me impossible to replicate elsewhere in quite the same way - that is why the facilities have been there for so many years.

"The sums of money involved represent very small cash savings for the MoD of around £2M per year and my colleagues and I will work with others to make as strong a case as possible for the retention of facilities and jobs within the consultation announced.

"I note that the MoD say they will consider workable alternatives and that is a task everyone must look at closely."

HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS ENTERPRISE

HIE chairman William Roe: "The action being proposed by the MoD is a devastating blow to the economy of the Uists and HIE is fully committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with its partner agencies and the community to challenge this decision.

"We believe these plans fail to take account of the sites' value and we will be doing everything in our power to find a way to put pressure on the MoD and its operator QinetiQ to seek another option."

He added: "QinetiQ is the largest private sector employer in the Western Isles and HIE will be pressing for very clear explanations on what forces are at work within the international defence industry which could have prompted this proposal.

"It is vital we find solutions to protect these vital jobs which play such a major part in the economic sustainability of the area."

COMHAIRLE NAN EILEAN SIAR

Comhairle leader, Angus Campbell: "The comhairle will make every effort to avert the threatened job losses at the Uist Test Range and we have already made contact with key players in this developing situation asking them to intervene as a matter of urgency.

"At this time we await further information from the MoD but we are mobilising support from all quarters to prevent this potential devastating economic blow to the Uist economy."



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