Deputy FM writes to MoD over defence review

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Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond to seek assurances around the impact of the defence review in Scotland.

In July 2011 the then Secretary of State for Defence set out a further stage of the defence transformation programme. 

While that announcement was disappointing in significant aspects, including signalling the end to RAF operations at Leuchars following a decision in 2010 to withdraw the RAF from Kinloss, this was mitigated by indications of a substantial uplift to the military footprint in Scotland, amounting to an increase in excess of 2,000 personnel in Scotland.

Since that announcement the Scottish Government has pressed for further clarity on the impact for Scotland’s communities that host military bases.  It is expected that the Ministry of Defence will publish further detail by the end of 2012.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“We have sought to engage positively throughout the UK Government’s defence review and we will continue to play our part to achieve the best outcomes possible in the circumstances for service personnel, their families and the communities that host them around Scotland.

“Despite our engagement with the UK Government there has been no further clarity around the actual impact in Scotland since the announcement 17 months ago.

“I am writing to stress that ahead of such decisions being made they should take account of proper analysis of the impact on local communities and economies and to seek assurances that the Ministry of Defence will honour the commitment to significantly increase the military footprint in Scotland by over 2,000 personnel.”

The full text of the letter from Nicola Sturgeon to Philip Hammond is below:

20 November 2012

In September 2010 the Scottish Government and the main party leaders in the Scottish Parliament came together to put forward a joint submission to the UK Government, following the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

It put forward a shared position that, due to the significant economic and social impact of the military presence in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has an important interest in the defence transformation programme being undertaken by the UK Government.

In July 2011, the then Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Liam Fox, MP, set out a further stage of the defence transformation programme.  While that announcement was disappointing in significant respects, including the end to RAF operations at Leuchars following the decision in 2010 to withdraw the RAF from Kinloss, this was mitigated by indications of a considerable increase to the military footprint in Scotland, amounting to over 2,000 additional personnel.

Since that announcement local communities around Scotland which proudly host military bases, their personnel and families have been keenly awaiting further detail on the changes in Dr Fox’s announcement and I understand that the plan is to provide that clarity by the end of this year.

In that context, I therefore wish to make the following points, which I ask you to take into account in reaching your decisions

  • The Scottish Government strongly welcomes the economic and social benefits that military personnel and their families bring to Scotland and stress our support for Armed Forces communities in Scotland.  We are therefore keen to see the overall military footprint in Scotland maximised in line with the announcement in July 2011.
  • As well as bringing economic and social benefits to the communities that host them, we know that, in turn, Scotland has much to offer service personnel and their families, as demonstrated in the recent publication, “Our Commitments: Scottish Government support for the Armed Forces community in Scotland”.  The strong Scottish contribution to recruitment to the Armed Forces reinforces the logic of making sure that robust links are maintained with communities around Scotland.
  • While recognising that the process of defence transformation has involved complex and difficult considerations, local communities have been asked to be patient and have now been awaiting final decisions for a considerable period of time.  It is therefore crucial that, as far as possible, these communities, including in and around Edinburgh, Leuchars, Rosyth, Kinloss and Arbroath, are now given the certainty that they need to plan for the future.

I understand that decisions on defence transformation of course need to take primary account of national security and military effectiveness.  However it is also important that, ahead of such decisions being made, they should take account of proper analysis of the impact on local communities and economies.  The Scottish Government stands ready to contribute to such analysis.

The Scottish Government’s position on these issues underscores our key concern that, above all else, we collectively do our best for the members of the Armed Forces, their families and the communities that support them and we will do all we can to achieve that, working with you and others where appropriate.

In that spirit I am copying this letter to the leaders of the other parties in the Scottish Parliament, as well as to the Secretary of State for Scotland.  I am sure that others will want to add their voices as you come to decisions on these vital matters.

NICOLA STURGEON