By Bob Duncan
The Scottish National Party is criticising a Ministry of Defence (MOD) delay in announcing its plans for military basing, which was expected to take place next Tuesday.
The announcement is supposed to confirm the return of service personnel from Germany and future basing arrangements across the UK.
Last year the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox promised that between 6,500 and 7,000 personnel would return to Scotland and be part of a new multi-role brigade, new barracks would be built at Kirknewton in West Lothian and a new training area would be established in the Borders.
During a House of Commons statement on Defence Transformation on 18 June 2011 Dr Fox told MPs that:
“Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five multi-role brigades. The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh.
“The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300.
“Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle barracks and eventually Arbroath, as we intend over time to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west”.
Dr Fox went on to tell MPs that the UK Government anticipated the return of up to 7,000 troops returning to Scotland from Germany:
“It is impossible to give an exact number, but I would imagine that between 6,500 and 7,000, or something of that order, of the 20,000 personnel we currently have in Germany will be coming back to the multi-role brigades in Scotland.
“The precise number and lay-down will be subject to the plans that the Army will bring forward in the months and years ahead, assuming of course that we have the agreement of the local authorities and the Scottish Government”.
The move would partially make up for recent disproportionate cuts in manpower, spending and basing in Scotland. It is widely expected that the imminent basing announcement will confirm that the UK Tory-Lib Dem government will go back on many of these commitments.
As far back as March, when Philip Hamond had just taken over from Liam Fox as Defence Secretary, plans to build a £400 million army super-barracks on the outskirts of Edinburgh were reported to have been scrapped by the Ministry of Defence less than a year after they were first announced.
An internal review had concluded the contentious proposal was too expensive and based on “flawed logic” involving the sale of historic barracks in the city, said MoD sources.
The still-to-be-announced decision grants a reprieve to the Craigiehall HQ north of Edinburgh as well as either Dreghorn or Redford barracks on the city’s outskirts. The remaining site is expected to be sold.
The initial plan, announced by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox, was to fund the new super-barracks on an old glider field in Kirknewton, West Lothian, with cash raised from selling all three.
Westminster SNP Leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:
“Service personnel have been waiting too long for the Basing Review statement to be clear about their future. This was supposed to happen next Tuesday which would have given military families clarity before Christmas. Unfortunately the Ministry of Defence has now delayed this, which I think is very unfair to servicemen, service women and their families – especially at this time of year.
“Even at this late stage I appeal to the Government not to go back on its defence commitments to Scotland.
“Only a year ago promises were being made to partially make good on recent disproportionate cuts to personnel, spending and basing.
“I don’t believe that a sovereign Scottish government of any mainstream hue would manage defence so badly in Scotland. It is time to make better defence decisions in Scotland and we can only do that after a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 independence referendum.”
The following is the current extent of British Army basing in Scotland:
At present the British Army stations only 4 infantry battalions in Scotland:
- Dreghorn, Edinburgh 1stBatallion RRS (Royal Scots Borderers);
- Glencourse, Midlothian 2ndBatallion RRS (Royal Highland Fusiliers);
- Fort George, Highland 3rdBatallion RRS (Black Watch);
- Redford, Edinburgh 3rdBatallion The Rifles.
In addition, 39 Engineer Regiment is newly based at Kinloss Barracks with a 41% lower manning level than the previous RAF establishment total when it was an RAF base.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Highlanders, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland are based at bad Fallingbostel in Germany.
There are no regular Army units based in Scotland in the following categories: Artillery, Armour, Signals, Logistics, Air Corps, Intelligence or Special Forces
There are no military Training Establishments in Scotland. This means there is no: Military Academy, Engineering School, Army Training Regiments and no Infantry Training Centres.
There is also no senior strategic military command in Scotland.