Wednesday, 17 June 2009

MoD confirm 125 job losses at Range Hebrides

This just in, more in the Herald tomorrow and on my Herald blogsite.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed plans to cut 125 jobs at the Hebrides missile range in South Uist and to control firing operations remotely from a rival Welsh base at Aberporth.

The loss of 125 jobs, about one in six of the workforce in the Southern Isles, will have a devastating effect on the Western Isles economy. Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the development agency, estimate that the knock-on effect of redundancies will double the number of local jobs losses.

The cuts will be made over a four year period during which QinetiQ, the private contractor running Range Hebrides, plans to move the command and control centre for missile firing to the Aberporth range in west Wales.

The military also plans to withdraw its permanent presence from St Kilda, the world heritage site in the Atlantic, that houses a tracking station for missiles fired from the South Uist coastline. The military have had a presence on South Uist and St Kilda for over 50 years. In addition the West Camp at Balivanich in Benbecula, which houses visiting army deployments, is to be reduced.

The QinetiQ facility at Kyle of Lochalsh, which operates the underwater testing range at North Rona and Raasay, is to lose 20 jobs around 2012 as a result of rationalisation.

Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles, put an emergency motion to the Commons yesterday, calling for a debate. He told the chamber: "South Uist and North Uist and Benbecula cannot cope with this level of cuts. In a major city like Glasgow the would be the equivalent of six to seven thousand jobs gone at the stroke of a pen. To an island community it is infinitely worse - it means depopulation or employment opportunities that after eight hours away by ferry."

He added: "An entire community has shaped itself to fulfil its needs of the range, a service and sacrifice which entailed forgoing many opportunities. The MoD through QinetiQ cannot walk away leaving chaos and a vacuum behind.

"There is surely a social and economic responsibility here. Over and above the social and economic responsibility the Hebrides range is best for purpose in Britain. There is no equivalent in Europe to Range Hebrides. For the island the range is too important."

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