THE University of St Andrews has thrown its backing behind the under-threat RAF base in neighbouring Leuchars.
The 600-year-old university, which was attended by Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton, says the loss of the base could have a “damaging effect” on the local economy and on the wider Scottish and UK national interests.
Earlier this year Prince William was asked by campaigners to join the fight against the closure of RAF Leuchars, as they believed his position as a search-and-rescue pilot would mean he had a vested interest.
The prince was reported to have successfully lobbied Prime Minister David Cameron over the controversial plans to privatise RAF Valley, Wales, where he is currently based.
But the heir-to-the-throne politely declined in a letter sent back from his representatives Clarence House which said he wished to be treated like any other RAF pilot.
St Andrews University, in Fife, adds its support to a substantial group of organisations and individuals campaigning to retain Leuchars as a fully functioning RAF base, including Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell.
Derek Watson, Quaestor and Factor at the university, said: “Leuchars is a unique and indelible part of the fabric and history of North East Fife.
“The economic and social benefits it has brought to generations of people in Fife and further afield are inarguable.
“It is important however that due consideration is given to the often overlooked fact that RAF Leuchars is more than a highly effective and key element of the UK’s air defences.
“In addition to being a generator of wealth and employment in the local community, Leuchars has for many years shared a bond of common interest with the university.
“Each of us has come to rely on the other for mutual benefit.
“In many cases, our staff who work in St Andrews have partners or family members who work at Leuchars.
“Leuchars and the university have been responsible for attracting new talent, new opportunity and new industry to Fife and Scotland.
“We share a common interest in research and the advancement of science and potential spin-offs in the aerospace industry.
“The university believes that the strategic defence, economic and social arguments in favour of the retention and continued investment in RAF Leuchars are overwhelming and we add our voice to the thousands of individuals and organisations who have already declared their support.”
Fraser Phillips, chair of the Residents Action Force, said: “I would add that the close relationship between the university and RAF Leuchars is mirrored by the close relationship of the university with the economy of Fife in general and their representation on the FEP.”