One afternoon this summer, I stood by a fence in Lossiemouth, head tilted back and eyes fixed on a moving dot on the horizon. Beside me were my partner and another holidaymaking family, each of us staring in the same direction, watching the dot as it slowly became an aeroplane. Inadvertently we ducked as it flew over our heads, just a few feet above us. I caught a glimpse of the pilot before he swooped down onto the runway and taxied out of sight.
I don’t like weapons. I am, like most people, anti-war. My family has had no military connections in recent generations. If asked, I would usually say that defence is an area that is ripe for cuts, and should certainly be targeted over health, education or the environment.
And yet. I remember my partner’s face as he watched that plane roar over us, as he relived his childhood summers standing here as a small boy, acting out a family ritual that recurred yearly. I remember wondering about the pilot who’d skilfully landed his machine, unperturbed by the tiny humans gawping beneath him. I remember driving into Lossiemouth and finding a town utterly organised around the needs of the nearby RAF base, and thinking what a dangerous, precarious existence that was.
Now Lossiemouth is at risk, and Kinloss is condemned. I should be pleased: Britain is a small country, Scotland even more so, and there is no need for us to bristle with the armour of an empire. And I’d rather see the axe fall here than elsewhere. But it’s a lesson in the realities of politics: there are no easy wins. Every budget line, no matter how trivial or extravagant it appears, conceals a messy swarm of lives. Civil servants have families, small businesses depend on public sector contracts, benefits claimants cannot usually walk into a job.
Politics is about choice and consequence, and today’s announcements could not make that any plainer.