Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 11:30 UK

Job advert raises fears for range


Advert raises fears over range

A job advert for a project manager to "dismantle" the Benbecula missile test range has been posted, despite the MoD insisting no decision has been made.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) site in the Western Isles is operated by contractor QinetiQ, which has posted the advert on its internal website.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan said he will be raising the matter at Holyrood.

The MoD said no final decision has been made on a "modernisation" plan, which would result in the loss of 125 jobs.

Mr Allan said: "It is very difficult to read this job advert any other way: QinetiQ, it seems, are looking for someone who will oversee the dismantling of the command and control functions at Hebrides Range, leading to the operation of much of its activities by remote control from Aberporth in Wales.

"How does that square with all the protestations from QinetiQ, the MoD and the Secretary of State for Scotland that they are genuinely listening?"

This is prudent business practice and in no way pre-empts the outcome of the public consultation which has yet to be announced
QinetiQ spokesman

The QinetiQ advert seeks a "Deputy Project Manager, Integrated Air Ranges Operations" for "a very large Air Range Transformation project (£40M+) that will undertake Range modernisation, integration of Command and Control functions for the Aberporth and Hebrides Ranges, and implement remote control and monitoring of much of the Hebrides Range T&E equipment".

Under the proposals being considered by the MoD and QinetiQ, the radar station on Hirta in St Kilda would be operated remotely with staff only visiting for maintenance and servicing.

The command and control centre on South Uist has been earmarked for closure by 2014. Rocket trials would run instead from Aberporth in Wales using new technology.

West Camp - an army base at Balivanich, Benbecula - would remain open but one accommodation block would close, reducing the need for domestic staff.

The camp is linked to training on the Rapier air defence missile system which is used by the Royal Artillery and RAF.

'Missile trials'

At present 215 people work at the Benbecula range, but acceptance of the modernisation proposals would see 125 jobs cut.

An MoD spokeswoman said that "categorically" no decision has been taken and that the job advert "is entirely a matter for QinetiQ".

Meanwhile, a spokesman for QinetiQ said that the MoD had previously "agreed in principle for the command and control centre on South Uist to close by 2013-2014, and for missile trials on the Hebrides to be controlled from Aberporth instead using new technology".

He added: "MoD also announced that it would gather comments and views from the community and those affected by the changes.

"As the contractor operating and managing the Hebrides range on behalf of the MOD we have commenced some planning in support of this announcement.

"This is prudent business practice and in no way pre-empts the outcome of the public consultation which has yet to be announced."

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