04 September 2003

S2M-264 Defence Aviation Repair Agency

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-264, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes the continued speculation about the impact of the Ministry of Defence's 'End to End Review' on the future of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) in Almondbank; is concerned about the threat to the 325 jobs at the facility; recognises the important and specialised skills of the workforce there which are significant to both Perthshire locally and Scotland as a whole; acknowledges the massive local economic impact of DARA in Almondbank as evidenced by the Mackay Consultants' report of August 2003; further notes the cross party and multi-agency Welsh campaign to defend DARA jobs in Wales, and believes that the Scottish Executive should ensure that a similar campaign is organised in Scotland in order to protect and defend the continued existence of defence jobs at DARA in Almondbank.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Jackie Baillie is being disingenuous. She knows perfectly well that the Scottish defence forces in an independent Scotland would retain roughly the same number of employees as are currently employed—some 25,000 people. My colleague, John Swinney, will say more about that in his speech. I shall focus on some of the defence facilities in Scotland and the costs to wider Scotland of the country's being used for defence.
One third of lower air space in Scotland is reserved for military flying. That is good. We have the opportunity to provide that facility to other NATO countries, such as the United States and Germany, whose aircraft are regularly seen flying around the treetops in constituencies in the North of Scotland. However, the price for that is paid by the local people who live in those areas—a price that is paid also in military flying areas in the Borders—and there is no concomitant benefit in jobs on the ground from that activity. Nevertheless, the major facilities at Lossie, Kinloss and Leuchars bring tremendous economic benefit to the local communities. Those communities understand the price that they pay in noise and disruption and recognise the local benefits that they acquire.
It is not just my colleague Roseanna Cunningham's constituency that is being affected by closures. Jobs have been lost in the minister's constituency, with the recent closure of radar facilities at RAF Saxa Vord. Therefore, I hope that he will show an understanding of Roseanna Cunningham's position.
Strange things have happened, such as the aerodrome at West Freugh in south-west Scotland being closed with less than 24 hours' notice, which meant that three civilian planes found themselves locked behind the gates and were unable to get out for a week. Therefore, I think that we are right to be concerned about the jobs at Almondbank and to act pre-emptively to defend them.
We lost military contracts at Rosyth but recently gained some on the Clyde, which is good news. However, at Tain, to the north of Inverness, live munitions are dropped within sight and sound of the local community. Aircraft come from Germany to do that, but they do not stop in Scotland to refuel, nor do they bring any other benefits. Many of the costs that are borne by communities throughout Scotland to support the military are not matched by concomitant benefits. It is on that basis that I am happy to make a brief speech in defence of the facilities in Roseanna Cunningham's constituency.
We need our fair share. One of the things that the unionists always tell us is that there are benefits from being in the union, but there are also disbenefits, if we are not getting our fair share. I hope that the minister will be able to reassure us that his Executive and members throughout Parliament will be able to unite in a vigorous campaign to ensure that we retain the important jobs at Almondbank.

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