Closure fear hits munitions depot

SCORES of jobs at a munitions depot in Fife are under threat as defence chiefs carry out a review into its future.

The Ministry of Defence today admitted it was considering closing the defence munitions section at Crombie near Rosyth, which stores conventional weaponry and loads munitions onto Royal Navy warships.

Defence bosses insisted Crombie would not close altogether, but would continue to load supplies and other equipment on to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Navy vessels as part of its Warship Support Agency role.

But the review could see Crombie’s defence munitions duties moved to another base, raising fears that dozens of jobs could be lost at the depot.

Crombie is one of only a few depots in Britain with a deep water channel and jetty, enabling the Royal Navy’s largest warships to dock and load or unload munitions.

The depot also takes in guided weapons for all the services and tests, processes and repairs them in a specially constructed integrated weapons complex.

Crombie employs around 200 workers, although it is not known how many are tasked with the defence munitions duties. The majority of its workers are thought to come from the Fife area.

Rachel Squire, MP for Dunfermline West and a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee at Westminster, pledged to raise the review with defence chiefs immediately. She said: "I will be getting on to the MoD about this. Crombie has had a long-time munitions role. The Navy considers that it is well-located because it has a deep-water channel, which allows larger ships to sail right through up to Crombie. It is also some distance from any main centre of population.

"I am seriously concerned at the suggestion that it could be moved and I want to know why. I will be in touch with the minister."

The MP said she had won assurances from the Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram last year that DM Crombie’s future was secure. She said: "Its role has changed over the years. It is very much a ships supply facility. It has the facility to assist all three services."

Today a spokesman for the MoD said: "The review is looking at whether it [the defence munitions] is surplus to requirements.

"The MoD study will be completed in February. It will look at whether the equipment and storage can be transferred to another site."

The spokesman insisted Crombie’s logistical role - making sure ships were fully-stocked and supplied with food and other equipment - would remain and possibly even be enhanced at the depot.

He said: "It has a logistical role, making sure the ships are in the right place at the right time with the right equipment."

The spokesman said it was "too early to say" whether any jobs at Crombie were under threat under the defence review, but pledged: "It will remain open. If there are any significant changes, there will be consultation."

The spokesman said the depot’s deep-water jetty allowed larger ships, including the Royal Auxiliary Navy vessels, to dock at the depot.

He said: "It is one of the few sites [with such a facility] in Britain."

The review is expected to be completed by February next year.