A member of the armed forces has died in a training exercise at RAF Tain weapons range, 30 miles from Inverness.
Police said there were no other casualties, but the range remains sealed off and the person’s next of kin have been informed.
A police spokesman said an investigation will be launched but it was a “contained incident” and there was no threat to the public. An Army spokeswoman confirmed that officials were handling the incident. She said: “We are aware of an incident at the Tain base, near Inverness. “We will release more information as and when it becomes available. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this point.”
The incident comes two months after a Scottish soldier’s death during training at Otterburn, Northumberland. Pte Conor McPherson, 24, from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, died after suffering a “serious head wound”. He was from Paisley, Renfrewshire.
Tain is one of only a few ranges of its type in the UK and it is mainly the RAF that uses it. It’s on a very large piece of land and stretches along the Dornoch Firth. It’s used by the RAF, the US Air Force and other Nato forces in training their pilots in bombing. They use dummy bombs with very small detonators and it’s basically target practice for them. Sometimes this place has a very uneasy relationship with the local community, who obviously have some concerns about low flying.
The involvement of the Army in rifle and target shooting here is something that is certainly not talked about very much. But clearly this is a very worrying incident for both the armed forces and local people. There is speculation that the casualty might be from 3 Scots, the Black Watch, who are based at Fort George near Inverness, but we do not have confirmation of that.
Emergency services were called to the defence facility at about 17:55 GMT on Tuesday.
Police Scotland said it was leading the investigation to establish the full circumstances of the incident and was working closely with the armed forces.
RAF Tain is a long-established, large air weapons range on the Dornoch Firth, about three miles east of the town of Tain. It is used for the majority of the time by the RAF – in particular Tornado and Typhoon fast jets that operate out of RAF Lossiemouth in Moray – and the Army also uses the site, which has a rifle range and small arms range.
The US Air Force and Nato air crews use the range to fly low as the RAF aircraft do and to attack targets on the site, large parts of which are saltmarsh. Civilian contractors work with military personnel in managing the range’s control tower, targets and clearing ordnance.
Alasdair Rhind, councillor for the Tain area and deputy leader of Highland Council, said that the range had a good safety record.
He said: “A number of years ago there was concern by a small minority in the community about the high level noise of the low flying jets, but since the ministry of defence cutbacks have come into force we don’t get so much low flying aircraft nowadays and therefore we don’t really see or hear much complaints about the range. “Obviously, we’ve got to let the police and the military carry out their investigations and I’m sure that we’ll get further briefings from them in due course. I would think our community will be most concerned with the family of the person that’s lost their life down there and our sympathies go to that family today. “The Tain range has had a very good safety record. All the time that it’s been there I can’t recall ever an incident, so I think we’ve first got to hear the full extent of this incident before asking for any clarity.”
Gail Ross, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said the incident was a “terrible tragedy”. She said: “My thoughts and condolences are with their family, friends and of those who were involved in the incident.”