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Politics

A Day In The Life Of The Defence Secretary

Gavin Williamson's visit to Scotland entailed stops in Edinburgh, Moray and Aberdeen, and back to London, all in one day.

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(Picture: Crown Copyright).

By Forces News Westminster Correspondent, Laura Makin-Isherwood.

Managing the Defence Secretary’s diary must be a near impossible task.

Gavin Williamson is a man in demand, responsible for the British military in the UK and overseas, and of course must balance defence with the needs of his South Staffordshire constituency.

Meetings are frequent and far-reaching, and there is much information to absorb.

I followed him through a typical working day – a visit to Scotland.

We met early, at a designated airport, where a plane was already waiting on the tarmac.

Two Scottish MPs, Colin Clark and Douglas Ross, were there too as the Secretary of State would later be make visits in their constituencies.

But the first stop was Edinburgh.

On arrival, we were whisked from Edinburgh airport to Carlton Hill on top of which the Nelson Monument stands.

The monument commemorates Admiral Nelson’s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Inside sits a hand-crafted scale-model of his flagship ‘Victory’, and it was here that Gavin Williamson came to announce that the final Type 26 frigate to be named will be called HMS Edinburgh.

The decision continues a 300-year-long tradition.

The previous ship by that name was decommissioned in 2013, but the city has been safeguarding its bell to install on the next.

Gavin Williamson looks at the Edinburgh bell.
The Defence Secretary was shown that very bell by the Regional Commander for Scotland, Captain Chris Smith.

But there wasn’t long to chat, as a plane was waiting to take the Secretary of State to his next destination.

A safety briefing, a cup of tea and a biscuit later, and we touched down in Lossiemouth.

RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth lies in Moray, in the North East of Scotland.

It is a base that has seen an influx of investment in recent months, and will soon be home to the UK’s new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The facility that will house them is under construction.

In August, Gavin Williamson cut the sod and this was an opportunity to see how much progress had been made.

Gavin Williamson at RAF Lossiemouth.
With a hard hat and high-vis on, the Secretary of State was ready to take a tour.

While still only a building site, it is already evident that the facility is it undeniably huge.

Still roofless in places, the rain hammered down.

And after a quick lap we were ushered back to the airport for the next leg of the journey - Aberdeen.

Aberdeen, 70 miles from Lossiemouth, is a defence industry hub.

Gavin Williamson at Hydro Group.
Gavin Williamson on another tour along with the area’s MP Colin Clark.

The Hydro Group Plc, which provides many of the subsea cables used in the Vanguard, are based there.

A visit had been arranged.

But by this time it had already hit 4pm and there was still one more stop to make before home – to Wings for Warriors.

Wings for Warriors is a charity that has its base on the edge of Aberdeen airport - a flying school that trains veterans who are injured or unwell.

The organisation is run by volunteers, and its founder took the chance to tell the Defence Secretary about the work they do and ask for ideas as to how to make it a sustainable business long-term.

Gavin Williamson at Wings for Warriors

Ten hours after leaving London, it was time to return, and climb back on the plane to fly south.

It is perhaps in air transit that a Minister can take a moment to catch their breath.

Food is served, briefs are given, and thought about the following day’s schedule begins.

Looking out of the window, Gavin Williamson tells me he tries to work out where he is in the country by looking at the motorways.

The fact he guesses correctly is perhaps testament to the hours spent travelling on and above them.