Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 16:53 UK

Consultation call on missile plan

Rapier
One of the facilities is used by soldiers training with the Rapier missile system

Plans to cut missile testing facilities in the Western Isles should be subject to a longer consultation, according to Scotland's finance secretary.

The Ministry of Defence announced last month that about 125 jobs could go at firing ranges operated by defence contractor QinetiQ.

John Swinney welcomed a three-week extension to the consulation period, but said it should last 90 days.

The minister is due to meet a taskforce opposed to the plans on Thursday.

The cuts affect four ranges and facilities on Benbecula, South Uist and St Kilda.

A taskforce has been set up including representatives from the Scottish Government, Cohhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highand and Islands Enterprise and other key agencies.

All we're asking for is the time to prepare proposals.
Angus Campbell
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Mr Swinney said: "The case against these job cuts and the effect they would have on the Uists as remote island communities is compelling.

"Both at a local and national level, the taskforce set up to push for alternative solutions is compiling strong evidence that this course of action is the wrong route to take."

The leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, welcomed his support for a longer consultation period.

He said: "All we're asking for is the time to prepare proposals.

"Surely it can't make much difference to the MoD so I would appeal to them to give us the courtesy of an adequate and meaningful consultation period.

"The employees at Qinetiq and the wider community deserve that at least."

New research

A socio-economic study has been commissioned by Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

HIE chairman, William Roe, said: "The communities affected by this announcement are making a highly valuable contribution to QinetiQ's operations and possess some tremendous assets.

"We need additional time to properly investigate options which provide continued employment for those whose jobs are under threat while satisfying the demands that prompted QinetiQ into proposing this action."

The MoD is seeking to make £50m of saving by 2028. It initially announced a 30-day consultation period.



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