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MoD does everything right for once in Xmas shocker

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SNP voters will get a taste of the independence they asked for - in the form of an airbase closure

Quite apart from all that, the Nimrod MR2 - being a flying antique - is horribly expensive to run, both in money and in lives. The MR2's extensive use above Afghanistan in recent times as a flying spyeye and to relay radio messages between ground units in no way justified its continued, very expensive existence; far less could such unimportant work possibly have justified the known risks of refuelling these aged birds in mid-air.

So getting rid of the MR2s loses us nothing important, and will make our service people noticeably safer - the Nimrod has actually killed one of our people for every 15 killed by the Taliban. Better still, this will permit another pricey airbase here in the UK to largely close, saving money to be spent at the front line. As a fringe benefit, the base in question - RAF Kinloss - is in a Scottish National Party constituency, giving people there a taste of the independence from the UK that they have voted for. (Strangely the local SNP member of parliament still isn't happy**.)

Sadly RAF Kinloss will come back to life to some extent when the horrifyingly expensive rebuilt Nimrod MRA4s come on line in a few years, but - again, sensibly - the MRA4's planned operating budget has been cut this week, so this will at least be kept contained.

All these savings will allow the MoD to buy 22 new Chinook transport helicopters, plus the two it was already buying to replace recent combat losses. This, at last, is real backing for our troops in Afghanistan. The Chinook is the only helicopter which can carry significant loads to and from many locations there, due to the high altitudes and summer temperatures. The new aircraft will mean fewer road convoys, less need to move through minefields, more effective combat ops. They will save lives and win battles.

The MoD will also buy another excellent, useful C-17 heavy transport to join its existing small fleet, which will provide welcome strengthening for the UK's creaky "air bridge" to the deployed force. Our boys and girls will spend less of their hard-earned leaves waiting for planes, and will get critical supplies, reinforcements etc. from home faster.

There's also more cash for efforts against mines and bombs, in particular for more Reaper drones.

** “Over recent years £4.3 billion less has been spent on defence in Scotland than has been contributed by taxpayers in Scotland," says Angus Robertson.

Actually, Scots contribute about 8 per cent of the UK's taxpayer revenues. With the Defence budget running at about £35bn in recent times, they would qualify for around £3bn of annual defence expenditure on a pro rata basis. The UK's nuclear deterrent - almost all situated in Scotland - would account for most of this sum on its own. Scotland also has much of the rest of the submarine fleet and some surface ships, two major dockyards, large parts of the Army and three major airbases. The idea that Scots taxpayers are getting a raw deal from the MoD is comically unrealistic.

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