Troop deployment at the former RAF base at Kinloss could be significantly less than previously deployed according to figures released by the MoD.
Details contained in a statement from the ministry have revealed that the number of personnel earmarked for relocation to the Moray base will be 41% less than the numbers formerly stationed there.
Prior to its closure in July the former RAF base housed 1500 personnel, however the total number expected to be relocated in 2012 is currently only 930.
Commenting, Moray MP and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said:
“It is welcome that the army will move to Kinloss, however, the base will have a considerably reduced number of personnel. It is worrying that numbers will be 41 per cent down on the RAF unit establishment total at Kinloss.
“Moray is the most defence dependent constituency in the country and the local economy and community has suffered terribly because of MoD cuts.
“While welcoming the new army unit to Kinloss, many questions remain to be answered by the Ministry of Defence.”
Mr Robertson urged the MoD to try to manage the transition from RAF to army as quickly as possible in order to minimise impact on the local economy and housing and added: “Already there’s a significant reduction, there are only about 800 people currently at RAF Kinloss and that’s going to drop off quite dramatically.”
Mr Robertson responded to suggestions by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore that Scotland’s defence footprint had increased, by pointing out that under Labour it had been allowed to significantly deteriorate.
Mr Robertson said: “If we actually understand how much Scottish taxpayers contribute to the Ministry of Defence there’s a significantly lower footprint in Scotland than should actually be.”
The 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) will move to the Moray base from their current location near Cambridge. The Moray base was closed in July this year after seventy years of operational service.
There were fears that its closure would have a severe economic impact on the local community. The UK government has faced criticism over the length of time it has taken in order to announce redeployment plans. The announcement of a redeployment in 2012 is earlier than expected.
Jim Royan, chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, said: “The RAF has been at the heart of our Kinloss community for 70 years and we wish those who are leaving the very best.
“But we are delighted to welcome the men and women of 39 Engineers who are coming to Moray and they will find a warm welcome at their new home.”
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: “Today’s announcement is excellent news for Moray, bringing a large, highly-skilled unit to the area.
“This move will take place a great deal earlier than expected. This is a demonstration of our good faith and commitment to ensure that changes in Moray – and throughout Scotland – take place with the minimum of disruption.”