Defence basing review: decision delayed until Thursday?
Dundee-based newspaper The Courier claims that the decision on future defence basing, which we were expecting early in the week, may now be delayed until Thursday (14 Jul) due to the business disruption caused by the News of the World alleged phone hacking scandal:
Members of the UK Government's cabinet were due to be briefed on the results of the contentious basing review on Thursday.
A Commons announcement — which would effectively make the decision public — was then expected to follow on Monday.
However, The Courier understands that the News of the World phone hacking scandal may have thrown a spanner in the works.
An announcement is now likely to be made later on next week, most probably on Thursday.
A source close to the UK Government said the allegations had become the "main focus" for the country's top politicians.
Campaigners in both Leuchars and Moray — home to similarly under-threat RAF Lossiemouth — are desperately waiting for news.
On Monday defence secretary Liam Fox revealed that an announcement was "imminent" after confirming final decisions regarding the future of the UK's RAF sites had been taken.
However, developments since then have interfered with the parliamentary timetable — and caused yet more uncertainty for service personnel and their families, along with thousands of community campaigners.
"We cannot be 100% certain but it now looks likely that an announcement will be made on Thursday," our source said.
"Westminster has become consumed by the phone hacking scandal and that is taking up a lot of time and attention."
The source revealed that there had not been the chance to have the "extensive discussions" on the future of the UK's air bases that had previously been pencilled in.
Given the time available to the Commons, he said, it was "hard to see" how an announcement could be made before Thursday.
'The news will not be good'
Meanwhile, a source close to RAF Lossiemouth has claimed that a "very senior" visitor is expected at the Moray base next week.
"Everyone on the base has been told about this visit and the general feeling is that if somebody so senior is coming the news will not be good."
Whatever the final outcome, it now appears certain that army troops returning to Britain from Germany will be expected to set up barracks at whichever Scottish RAF base is closed.
But campaigners in both Moray and Fife maintain that there are "compelling reasons" to retain the status quo.
The Scottish Government has also said that the closure of either base "will not be tolerated."
Millions of pounds have recently been spent on upgrading facilities in Fife and supporters, including North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell, have repeatedly stated that Leuchars is "in the right place, doing the right job at the right time."
- Source article, by Dave Lord, The Courier: News of the World scandal delays decision on RAF Leuchars
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