First Minister Alex Salmond has written to the Prime Minister David Cameron to say this week’s basing review by Defence Minister Philip Hammond “breaks the UK Government’s bond of trust with the people of Scotland”.
Setting out the level of involvement from the Scottish Government in seeking the best possible outcome for Scotland, including work between Scottish Government officials and the Ministry of Defence on how a multi-role brigade might be located in Scotland, with access to the necessary training estate the Fist Minister wrote:
“This week has seen an announcement by your government on military basing which shamefully disregards clear promises to Scotland that were made less than two years ago. You should now apologise for the breaking of those commitments to the people of Scotland. You must also now commit to work constructively with us to ensure that the most positive outcomes possible are achieved for communities around Scotland and, crucially, for service personnel and their families affected by these changes.
“For its part the Scottish Government has demonstrated the good faith and positive engagement that we now expect back. That included several direct discussions that I had with the then Secretary of State for Defence between the SDSR and 18 July 2011 announcements. During those discussions I repeatedly emphasised that we would make every effort to facilitate a positive outcome for both Scotland and our Armed Forces, including exploration with the MOD and military representatives of how a Multi-role Brigade might be located in Scotland, with access to the necessary training estate.
“That positive approach to engagement continued following the 18 July announcement. My officials engaged with the MOD and its Defence Infrastructure Organisation on every possible occasion. Scottish Ministers raised issues and requested meetings related to the basing review process, in person or in writing, a total of eighteen times from 18 July 2011 to the point of the announcement this week.
“Despite our positive approach, the July 2011 announcement included some severe disappointments, confirming as it did the ruthless cuts to RAF bases in Scotland. That was balanced, to some degree, by Dr Fox’s clear commitment to significantly increase the military footprint in Scotland, with up to 7,000 of the troops returning from Germany being based here.
“The announcement by Philip Hammond this week therefore breaks your government’s bond of trust with the people of Scotland.
“That fault is compounded by the dissembling that surrounds that betrayal. In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Philip Hammond asserted that the promise of thousands of additional troops for Scotland became impossible in the context of further reductions to the Army after Dr Fox’s announcement. In fact, in his statement on 18 July, Dr Fox had already stated that the regular Army would be reduced below the figure announced in the SDSR, to around 82,000. Philip Hammond should apologise to the people of Scotland for his misleading remarks.
“We can also get a clear sense of your government’s regard for the well-being of Scotland from these events. Mr Hammond informed the House that the impact on health and education associated with these changes in England was important enough for his officials to engage with the relevant Whitehall departments. You must now explain why no such discussions took place with the Ministers responsible for those services here – the failure to do so is frankly deplorable.
“Breaking the overall commitment on increased Army numbers means a range of specific commitments by Dr Fox will not now be met, including for significant additional investment in Army barracks and training estate in Scotland. It also means that across Scotland individual communities will feel deeply aggrieved. That includes both Kinloss and Leuchars where it is now clear that Army numbers to replace the RAF will not match those promised. It also includes communities in and around Edinburgh, where people are coming to terms with the confirmation that two major Army facilities will, at least in part, close.
“You must now ensure that we are able to progress vital work to support those communities to deal with the resulting economic and social impacts. My officials have been seeking information on which to assess that impact, including basic data on baseline numbers of personnel at locations in July 2011. Over four months since that request, and despite this being raised more than fifteen times, the information has still not been made available by the Ministry of Defence. You must now ensure that it is provided immediately.
“This process has irrevocably shattered any remaining claim that your government had to taking forward the best interests of Scotland. I look forward to your urgent response.”