Defence covers activities which are part of the UK’s military activities to protect and defend the UK. This can cover a range of activities over land, sea, and air. There is a range of defence activities in the Scottish Solway, with the Socio-economic Assessment of the English Solway unable to identify any socio-economic contribution of defence activities to the English side of the Solway Firth. Defence is a matter reserved with the UK government and has a common, UK wide, approach.
As mentioned in the overview for the Productive chapter introduction of the Solway Review, this section is populated with data and information from the Socio-economic Assessment’s for the Scottish (SEASS), and English Solway (SEAES), which are two separate projects completed in 2020. Text below will be predominantly directly from the SEASS or SEAES Reports but is altered at times. These reports are available here. These socio-economic reports were needed in light of the changing face of socio-economic aspects impacting the Solway Firth, and also for the purpose of populating the productive section of the Solway Review. Text from the SEASS and SEAES reports is not referenced individually.
There is a limited level of defence activity and employment related to the Scottish Solway coast. The main sites are Ministry of Defence (MOD) West Freugh weapons test and evaluation range on Luce Bay, and the Kirkcudbright Training Area.
Around the Scottish side of the Solway the historic connection to extensive military activity can be seen. An example of previous defence activity is the platform at Sandyhills which was an RAF bombing target used by the World War II (WWII) Heathall airfield. Garlieston also has an important connection to WWII, it was where Mulberry Harbour prototypes were tested prior to D-day landings. Several Beetle potoons now lie on coastal rocks, with a well preserved example at Cairnhead Bay, Portyerrock (pictured below). Previous defence activity in and around the Solway contributes to the cultural heritage and draws visitors to the area through tourism. Garlieston has had exhibitions and books focussed on this point in Garlieston’s history, and even holds a military themed weekend called ‘Garlieston’s Military Weekend‘ each year with a vintage 1940’s theme to celebrate and remember the historic connection Garlieston had to World War II.
Much of the physical evidence of WWII history around Loch Ryan has been dismantled and dispersed. However there are a few publicly accessible sites that still show structures from that period such as the lookout post and flying boat slip ways at the Wig. The Loch Ryan WWII leaflet below provides more information of sites to visit.
The English side of the Solway has also seen its fair share of past military activity, with Drumburgh WWII bombing range, which continues to feature a large white target guide arrow marked on Easton marsh (Latitude 54.927212, Longitude -3.130580). Many buildings survive from the previous RAF Silloth, former Royal Air Force station one mile north-east of Silloth. Blitterlees Bank was also a testing site for weapons during World War I. Opened by Armstrong’s, the live firing of new weapons systems allowed the recovery of empty shells at low tide, and more privacy due to the ‘remote’ location. The BBC has an audio clip (available here) discussing this important time in Blitterlees’ history in the collection of clips focussed on ‘World War One at Home’.
See Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage for some more information on the military history around the Solway Firth.
Defining the Sector
The defence sector is defined as the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code (Office for National Statistics, 2007): 84.22: Defence activities. MOD West Freugh is classified under the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code (Office for National Statistics, 2007): 72.19: Other research and experimental development on natural sciences and engineering.
Between 2014 and 2018 the employment in the defence sector reduced by 11%.
|Change in Activity, 2014 – 2018|
Image; Beetle Pontoon at Cairnhead Bay, Portyerrock, near Garlieston © N. Coombey/ Solway Firth Partnership.