The former Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, has warned that the Uist rocket range “could not conceivably survive” the break-up of the United Kingdom if that was the result of the independence referendum.
Mr Murphy as a UK Cabinet Minister worked closely with the local authority in the Western Isles which orchestrated a successful campaign to protect jobs at the Range. In 2011, the Ministry of Defence agreed to give it a five year extension.
Speaking in Benbecula, where he met some of the 200 employees of Qinetiq who operate the range, Mr Murphy said that it had been “an incredibly close call” to save the jobs under the previous review which guaranteed the range’s future until 2016.
He said: “The Range has been here for 40 years and can have a bright future. But the hard fact is that 95 per cent of the Range’s work is to support the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and if we are no longer in the United Kingdom, the whole scenario changes.
“It was possible to make strategic arguments last time round when Uist was pitted against Aberforth in Wales. But if we were a separate state, the political arguments would become irresistible and the whole balance would shift.
“The MoD spends around £14 million a year to support the Uist range and it is not going to do that if we are a foreign country.
Mr Murphy said he strongly believed Uist was the best technical location for the range but added: “Every worker here knows that the arguments would change completely if we were outside the UK when there is a viable alternative which would still be within the UK.
“There are also issues of national security. The Scottish Nationalists’ death-bed conversion to NATO does not conceal the fact that they have previously opposed operations to which the Uist range was relevant. That is not a conflict of interests which the UK Ministry of Defence is going to risk.”
Mr Murphy, who made a three day visit to the Western Isles this week, said that the choice was clear-cut. “The Uist range and the 200 jobs are secure within the UK. They could not conceivably survive the break-up of the UK.”
Pictured is Jim Murphy with workers at the Uist range.