Depute Leader of Fife Council, Cllr Lesley Laird, and fellow Scottish Labour councillor, Brian Thomson, along with other local politicians, met with Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, in Leuchars on Monday, to discuss the problems being faced by local businesses during the transition of the military base from an RAF to an Army base. Following the meeting, Cllr Laird and the Minister visited a number of local businesses.
After the meeting, Cllr Thomson said:
"It was good to see cross-party support for the businesses. Also, Fife Council and Business Gateway are working with local businesses and the local community to promote a buy local campaign - with a leaflet being distributed throughout the local area - as well as seeking to ensure that businesses receive any reliefs they are entitled t from no domestic business rates.
However, the reality of the situation is that local businesses are suffering an unsustainable loss in revenue, and some sort of direct intervention - which is outwith the power of the Council - is required as soon as possible.
As someone who's family is from Leuchars, I'm well aware of the importance of the local businesses to the village. Many of the businesses are long established and there has been, for example, pubs and a butcher operating from the same premises since the 19th century.
I believe that we have a fairly unique position in Leuchars, in that there is a defined fallow period during the transition from an RAF to an Army base and, as such, I am of the view that the MOD has a responsibility to assist. I will therefore be writing to the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, regarding the matter, although I am aware that colleagues have done so already and not received a response.
I will also be writing to our local MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, who - with his Lib Dem party part of a coalition government with the Tories - I would expect should be able to exert some sort of pressure on the Secretary of State for Defence."
Cllr Laird said:
"While it was helpful to have all party support at the meeting, the reality is we need the MOD to recognise the unique set of circumstances that businesses in Leuchars are facing.
The issue is that it has simply not been a seamless transition, as the sheer volume of personnel and footfall is not there, and will not be there in real numbers until around September. I have not received a response to my previous letters to Michael Fallon, and I will be writing to him again. I would echo Cllr Thomson's view, and encourage the Lib Dems, as a coalition partner, to exercise stronger pressure, and make the case for Leuchars' business community."
Cllr Thomson outside the Aero Café in Leuchars.