THE Ministry of Defence has been accused of riding roughshod over communities on the west coast of Scotland in relation to its plan to double the size of a local torpedo range.

Ian Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, claimed the MoD was pressing ahead with its proposal without proper public consultation and amid fears that the move could threaten the livelihoods of more than 100 local fishermen.

But the Ministry hit back, saying: “The consultation is already underway with a range of stakeholders, including local communities and sea-users, regarding the proposed expansion of the Raasay Ranges.

“We have been clear that we are committed to proper engagement as part of the MoD byelaw review and no decision on the ranges will be made until this is complete,” insisted a spokeswoman.

Mr Blackford has written to Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, calling for him to make an urgent Commons statement on the issue when the UK Parliament returns from its party conference recess next month after a notice to change local byelaws appeared in the local press.

The MP, who led a Commons debate on the issue in June, claimed the proposed change to the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre(Butec) in the Inner Sound, between Applecross and Rona, could threaten the livelihood of around 140 fishermen, who worked in the area.

“Despite repeated requests for a public consultation to be carried out before any attempt was made to adopt new byelaws, this has clearly not happened and the MoD seem determined to ride roughshod over the communities of the western Highlands and Islands,” declared Mr Blackford.

However, the MoD pointed out that a separate consultation process with local fisherman explaining the likely impact of range change layouts had already been undertaken by defence company QinetiQ.

It stressed that “no decisions have yet been made” by the UK Government about changing the Butec water space and, to inform the decision-making process, “proper consultation” would take place.