March 17th, 2015 (David Ross). Conducting a Nato exercise next month will put the north of Scotland in the front line, as relations between Russia and the West continue to deteriorate, it is claimed.
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross SNP MSP Rob Gibson said communities were worried about the prospect of the exercises being played out amid heightened international tensions.
It was confirmed last week that the next round in the Joint Warrior exercises due in April, would now officially become part of Nato’s war games programme.
Mr Gibson said: “This may be just a bigger version of Joint Warrior, but at a political level it is sabre-rattling which is concerning to us. It puts the north of Scotland once again in the front line.
“We could be having Russian ships, submarines and aircraft taking an interest in the exercise and we don’t want anything that could lead to unfortunate accidents happening.
“We know about Joint warrior. It happens twice a year. The GPS jamming affects people working on land and at sea. It means certain areas are closed to access and through the sonar it can affect whale and dolphin populations. If it is to be stepped up the impact on the natural environment will be even greater.”
Joint Warrior will last from April 13 to 24 involve up to 12,000 armed forces personnel from more than a dozen Nato countries and close partners.
It will feature more than 58 warships and submarines, over 50 fixed-wing aircraft and nearly 3000 land forces from the participating nations. They will be operating from the Irish Sea north to beyond Cape Wrath and band round east to the Moray Firth.
It is designed to prepare personnel for Nato’s next exercise – Trident Juncture – scheduled for the Iberian Peninsula between September and November and which will be the largest live exercise of its kind for over a decade.
The Prime Minister David Cameron said these exercises showcased the breadth of the UK’s military capability and demonstrated the strength of the Nato Alliance.
Meanwhile Danny Groves, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society ‘s (WDC) communications manager also raised concerns. He said: “Whales and dolphins live in a world of water and sound. They feed, communicate and find their way around their world using sound. “Loud military exercises at sea, and the use of powerful sonar can put whales and dolphins in danger, cause them to strand on coastlines, and even kill them. Independent investigations following Britain’s largest mass dolphin stranding off the Cornish coast in 2008 concluded that the only realistic cause was military exercises taking place in the area at the time. As a result, WDC continue to lobby navies and governments, and to advocate for effective mitigation and monitoring.”
An MOD spokesman said: “The upcoming Joint Warrior exercise, similar in size to the spring 2013/14 exercises, will take place across the whole of the UK, including Salisbury Plain, Norfolk and South Wales as well as in Scotland.
“The MOD takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, and always incorporates consideration of potential impacts on local populations and the environment in its military planning.”