Monday, 14 September 2009

Murphy saves Benbecula jobs for now

The immediate threat to 125 jobs at the Benbecula missile range has been lifted and Defence Minister Quentin Davies will give further consideration to the future of the facility in the Hebrides, the Herald understands.

In what will be seen as a major victory for a local taskforce that fought a rearguard campaign to reverse the closure decision Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy will travel to Benbecula today to brief staff on their future.

Mr Murphy won the Whitehall battle based on the strategic and technical issues assembled by the local taskforce which persuaded the Ministry of Defence that the issue of automated control of the range, proposed by private operators Qintetiq, ought to be re-examined.

The facility had come under threat to save £50m but it is expected that Mr Murphy's announcement today will emphasis the strategic importance of the base as well as the socio-economic impact it has on the islands economy.

Mr Murphy fought tooth and nail to reverse the closure recommendation after being persuaded of the case by the island taskforce which assembled arguments from consultants at Jane's Defence.

Mr Davies, who is proving to be a maverick Minister who knows his own mind, was persuaded that Qinetiq had not made a proper case for running down what is seen as a major defence asset for the UK.

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