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RAF AXES 400 JOBS AT SCOTTISH BASE; Closure threat as defence bosses aim to save pounds 2.8bn.

Byline: By Bob Dow

HUNDREDS of jobs are to be axed at an air base threatened with closure.

Yesterday's announcement of the cuts at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray adds to the uncertainty over its future.

A total of 350 jet engineers will be moved from the base to RAF Marham in Norfolk under a defence review. Another 50 civilian staff will lose their jobs as a result.

In addition, 35 maintenance jobs will go at nearby RAF Kinloss, home of the air force's Nimrod fleet.

Lossiemouth - home to four squadrons of Tornado jets - is already under threat of closure in a separate cost-cutting review.

The move came only 24 hours after a delegation from Moray went to Westminster to plead for the two stations, which employ more than 5000 people and pump pounds 93million a year into the local economy.

Politicians condemned the job cuts and said that they, combined with the threats to the Scottish Army regiments, proved Scotland was getting a raw deal.

An ongoing Ministry of Defence review plans to slash the number of air bases in the UK early next year as part of pounds 2.8billion worth of cuts.

Insiders fear that Lossiemouth will be scrapped and its Tornado squadrons moved to Kinloss or elsewhere.

Repairs The new cuts will take place by 2008. Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said yesterday's move was aimed at creating an engineering centre of excellence at RAF Marham There will still be staff at Lossiemouth to carry out running repairs on 60 Tornados flying from there, he said.

But Moray MP and SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said Scotland was getting 'a doing' in defence.

He added: 'We now have hundreds of the highest qualified, most skilled engineering staff being sent south of the border and that is bad news.

'This is yet another attack on Scotland's defence, at a time when our forces personnel are more stretched than ever.

'In a matter of weeks, the MoD have announced the disbandment and amalgamation of regiments that are involved in combat situations around the world and a review of RAF bases that threatens the existence of RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss.

'Now there is this announcement of high-skill job losses in Moray.'

An MoD spokesman said the review had identified that major maintence for Tornados should be centralised at one base.

An RAF spokesman said last night: 'We understand the economic impact on the local community of these jobs going elsewhere but this is not the beginning of the end.

'There is a big decision on airfield capacity within the RAF which is being made by next year, and that is quite separate to this announcement.'

The Lossiemouth Tornados played a key part in the Iraqi conflict, with its pilots leading the air assault.

CAPTION(S):

CREST: RAF Lossiemouth; SET FOR THE AXE? RAF Lossiemouth
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 17, 2004
Words:475
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