22 MARCH 1957, Page 8

THIS KIND OF TALK infuriates the crofters, and such of

their spokesmen as Sir Compton Macken- zie—who denounced the project in the Spectator a couple of years ago. It got by then, they claim, because the RAF assured them that the rocket range brain-child, though it might sound illegiti- mate, was a very small one : only a handful of acres. Now the RAF has announced that the scheme is to be extended in acreage and popula- tion density, and its spokesmen have displayed that lack of tact in which the RAF is rapidly becoming the senior Service by saying that South Uist is only a couple of hundred miles from 'civilisation'—from Glasgow! The crofters point out that so far from South Uist losing its youth, it has actually increased its population; and that it already has flourishing industries, some of which —like fishing—will be killed by the rocket range. But their decisive argument is that there should at least be a public inquiry before the scheme is proceeded with. If nature reserves in Dorset can be withheld, owing to public opposition, from use as bombing ranges it is surely desirable that the facts should be investigated before an island with a distinctive human culture of its own should be given over to the RAF. That a Conservative government should refuse an inquiry is the sort of bureaucratic triumph which Conservative governments are elected to prevent.