Letter: Government is right, for once, about Rosyth

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The Independent Online
Sir: Decisions to close the naval base, keep the adjacent Rosyth Royal Dockyard in operation and continue the Benbecula missi1e range on the Hebrides would be an unusual coincidence of the right decisions, reached for the right reasons, by the right processes (report, 8 July).

When earlier this century there was a real threat to this country from the German fleet, the Firth of Forth was the right place to base our battle cruisers; but that threat is unlikely to recur in the foreseeable future.

When more recently there was a real Russian naval threat, from the Baltic and from Murmansk to the North Sea, Rosyth was a well- placed command post for our defence. But happily that threat, too, is no longer hanging over us.

The Rosyth naval base is not needed, and therefore the defence estimates should not be charged with the cost of keeping it open.

The dockyard represents an accumulated pool of industrial skills and facilities, and a good source of valuable employment; its future, on a cost-effective basis, has been reasonably assured, I believe, as a result of the contracts placed with it and the installation of commercial management, which has been able to add valuable civil work to its continuing naval tasks.

The Benbecula experimental range is a unique facility, well described in the recent report of the Commons Defence Committee; keeping Benbecula will help us to confront the future threats to our national security from the increasing range of ballistic and cruise missiles. Properly used, the range will enable us to develop the capacity to counter those threats.

We can all understand why Gordon Brown, as MP for Dunfermline, takes a view about Rosyth that might differ from the one he would take were he Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour government. We can admire the media-grabbing skills with which the leader of the Scottish National Party selects and shapes planks for his platform. But our sympathy for them shou1d not blind the rest of us to the fact that, on this occasion, the Government will be right to allocate and reallocate the taxpayers' contribution to our defence resources in these ways.

Yours faithfully,

HUMPHRY CRUM EWING

Reading, Berkshire

(Photograph omitted)

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