• March 4, 2015


They say history repeats itself and that is certainly what appears to be happening in relation to the underwater test and evaluation centre (BUTEC) which is sited between Raasay and Applecross on the Scottish mainland.

Two SNP MSPs (Dave Thompson and Rob Gibson) have criticised the fact that plans to extend the torpedo test range which currently occupies an area 6 miles long and three miles wide (approx) have been unveiled without consultation (see link Scotsman).

The MOD perhaps stung by the criticism has responded quickly saying that this is untrue. They claim no decision has been taken and that full consultation will commence with all interest groups in June 2015 (see link BBC).

However, the situation is not helped by the fact that the MOD ‘have form’ when it comes to the range. In Malcom Spaven’s book Fortress Scotland he recorded 30 years ago in relation to the BUTEC facility:

“Rona was expanded in 1977 with virtually no consultation with any civil authority. The Highland Regional Council Planning Department was informed of the MOD’s intention to develop Rona by letter on 9th February 1977. Faced with the mod fait accompli that construction was due to start at the end of that month, the council merely sent a rubber-stamp letter of approval six days later. Within weeks local people were amazed to see ships and helicopters ferrying materials to the remote island at enormous cost”

(Source FORTRESS SCOTLAND ; Malcolm Spaven 1983 ISBN 0-86104-735-4)

According to media reports the MOD last week announced a 22 million pound ‘investment’ in the range which is operated now by the private company Qinetiq.

Previous support for such facilities in remote rural areas has often centred on the small number of jobs they may create locally but this can often be offset by damage to the livelihoods of other (principally in relation to off-shore ranges -fishermen).

When in the 1970s the MOD attempted (with the support of the Manx government) to extend the Jurby sea bombing range the Celtic League ran a campaign of opposition which was successful because fisherman’s groups were also vociferous in their opposition. When the range was eventually closed in the late 1980s it opened up a valuable area for both shellfish and whitefish which sustainably managed continues to this day.

Local communities in the area of the BUTEC facility need to demand a proper assessment of the economic impact of any changes on sustainable fish stocks in the expansion zone.

Scotsman link here:

BBC Link:


An archived document at this link gives the current range parameters:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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