Local MP pleads for debate on job losses at Hebrides missile range

June 17, 2009 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

hebridesSouth Uist in the Hebrides

by Tony Grew

A Scottish Nationalist MP tried to secure an emergency debate this afternoon.

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 base in Wales.

Angus MacNeil, the member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles), wanted the House to give “urgent consideration” to the proposed closure.

He said that at least 120 jobs would be lost if the closure went ahead.

“Unofficial estimates from Highlands and Islands Enterprise effectively double that,” he told MPs.

“South Uist, North Uist and Benbecula cannot cope with that level of cuts.

“In a major city such as Glasgow, that would be the equivalent of 6,000 to 7,000 jobs gone at the stroke of a pen.

“Bad as that may be in a city, for an island community it is infinitely worse; it means depopulation to the next city or employment opportunities that are eight hours away by ferry and vehicular transport.”

Mr MacNeil said that islanders have taken the Hebrides missile range “into their community and accepted and worked with its needs and demands.”

“An entire community has shaped itself to fulfil its needs,” he said.

“A service and sacrifice that entailed forgoing many opportunities, at great opportunity cost to the community.

“The Ministry of Defence, through QinetiQ, cannot walk away leaving chaos and a vacuum behind. There is a social and economic responsibility here.

“Over and above the social and economic responsibility, however, the Hebrides range is simply the best for purpose in missile testing.

“No other range compares to the Hebrides range; it is so large that the curvature of the earth becomes a factor.

“This difficulty is mitigated by the existence of St. Kilda as a monitoring post almost in the middle of the range.

“There is no equivalent in the UK—or in Europe—to Hebrides range.

“Hebrides range is important to the defence of the realm, and also for the defence of Europe, as many other countries use the range for testing.”

Mr MacNeil said plant to close the range 15 years ago were “rightly rejected for many valid reasons.”

MPs can apply an for emergency debate under Standing Order 24.

However, the Speaker said:

“I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member has said, and I have to give my decision without stating any reasons.

“I am afraid that I do not consider the matter he raises to be appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24.

“I cannot therefore submit the application to the House.”

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