A north-east MP has appealed to the UK Government to reverse an “ill-advised decision” six years ago that left the north-east without a permanent naval presence.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie has penned a letter, which he has shared exclusively with the Press and Journal, to the Secretary of State for Defence regarding the former Aberdeen University Royal Navy Unit (AURNU).
In 2012, the coalition government at Westminster decided to shut the unit and move its associated patrol vessel and training ship HMS Archer from Aberdeen to Edinburgh – a choice which Mr Bowie says has “deprived” north-east students of the opportunity to experience naval life.
The vessel, which had spent 20 years in Aberdeen, was renamed the East of Scotland University Royal Navy Unit.
Before its move to the central belt, the unit had 58 student members.
Mr Bowie – who studied at Aberdeen University and trained with the AURNU- has now called on the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to bring it back to the north-east.
Mr Bowie said: “The Aberdeen unit is the oldest of its kind in the UK and has a place close to my heart.
“Not only am I a former student at the University of Aberdeen, but the unit is also where I met my wife.
“Beyond sentimental reasons, however, this was an ill-advised decision that simply should not have been made.
“It has left a huge chunk of Scotland’s coastline – and a major port in Aberdeen – without a permanent naval presence.”
Set up in 1967, the AURNU was one of the first of its kind in the UK.
Students who joined the unit received training in navigation, seamanship, man-overboard exercises and other important skills.
Mr Bowie added: “I find it unacceptable that this unit was disbanded and the ship moved to the central belt for cost-cutting reasons.
“It has deprived students of the ability to see or experience what a career in the senior service can offer.
“I have now written to the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, urging him to review this decision.
“Ultimately, I would like to see this unit re-instated in Aberdeen.
“The north-east must stop being short-changed by central governments of all colours.”
This piece first appeared in the Press and Journal on the 17th August 2018