Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

RAF Kinloss hit by defence cuts

Nimrod at RAF Kinloss
Older Nimrod aircraft are to be removed earlier than planned

The RAF base at Kinloss in Moray is to bear the brunt of military budget cuts in Scotland, it has been confirmed.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth told the House of Commons that Nimrod MR2 aircraft would be withdrawn from the base 12 months earlier than planned.

The full introduction of the Nimrod MRA4 would also be delayed until 2012 for financial reasons, he said.

But all three of the large RAF bases in Scotland - at Kinloss, Leuchars and Lossiemouth - will remain open.

However, the Kinloss announcement could see part of the base effectively put in "cold storage" to save money, the BBC understands.

Mr Ainsworth said the decision to withdraw the Nimrod MR2 early "has been taken for financial reasons", and he stressed it was in no way connected with the loss of Nimrod XV230, which crashed in Afghanistan in 2006 with the loss of 14 lives.

By reducing the flying hours, the RAF can make significant cost savings in fuel, servicing, maintenance and support services
MoD statement

He added: "This will have an impact on our use of RAF Kinloss, but there is no change to our assumptions on the future basing of the MRA4 force at this stage."

A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Nimrod MR2 will be taken out of service in March 2010.

Although the new Nimrod MRA4 will still start to arrive at the base in February 2010, there will be reduced flying hours, so the in-service date will be delayed until about autumn 2012.

The statement said: "Crews at Kinloss will continue to train on the new aircraft and the new simulators up there, thus retaining capabilities, skills and support staff.

"By reducing the flying hours, the RAF can make significant cost savings in fuel, servicing, maintenance and support services."

There are about 1,800 RAF personnel stationed at Kinloss, along with 300 civilians and 300 contractors.

Further reduction

The MoD said any surplus RAF staff would likely be redeployed elsewhere in the UK.

"There will also be some civilian staff reductions but it is hoped these will be natural reductions, not redundancies," it said.

The cuts are part of a UK-wide review by the MoD.

Mr Ainsworth also said the UK's force of Harrier jump jets would be cut by one squadron, with the remainder of the aircraft being moved to RAF Wittering, resulting in the closure of RAF Cottesmore.

There will be a further reduction of one or two squadrons of either Harrier or Tornado jets, with the exact composition to be decided at the next defence review. RAF Lossiemouth is the RAF's largest Tornado GR4s base.

It is outrageous that the defence secretary has surrendered to the Treasury and is set on cutting RAF bases and programmes
Angus Robertson MP

Mr Ainsworth had previously announced that 22 new Chinook helicopters would be ordered over the next 10 years for operations in Afghanistan.

Both Kinloss and Lossiemouth are in the constituency of Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray, who said Mr Ainsworth's statement "raised more questions than answers" and would "prolong the agony" for service personnel and their families.

Mr Robertson said: "At a time when our forces are already overstretched and under-resourced it is outrageous that the defence secretary has surrendered to the Treasury and is set on cutting RAF bases and programmes.

"The fact is that over recent years £4.3bn less has been spent on defence in Scotland than has been contributed by taxpayers in Scotland, and 9,500 defence jobs have been lost in Scotland since Labour came to power.

"With our forces fighting a war in Afghanistan it is inexplicable that the MoD are set to cut back conventional forces, while continuing with plans to squander billions on Trident nuclear weapons renewal."

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