Fox must explain broken Tory promises on defence

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  By a Newsnet reporter   

Former Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox who is scheduled to deliver a speech on Scottish independence and defence at a fringe event during the Conservative party conference has been challenged to explain why the Tories have broken promises on Scottisg defence.

Dr Fox is expected to argue that only the UK Government can adequately defend Scotland.  However SNP Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson has accused his party of making bigger cuts to Scotland’s defence footprint than to the rest of the UK.

At various times, the Conservatives have promised to save Scottish regiments, increase service personnel based in Scotland by thousands and build a new barracks at Kirknewton.  All of these commitments have subsequently been broken.  

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who replaced Dr Fox in the post, is understood to have cancelled the project to build new barracks at Kirknewton, and has reversed the previous commitment to station thousands of troops there.  Since taking over the post a year ago, Mr Hammond has not made a single official trip to Scotland.

In 2004, former Conservative Shadow Scottish Secretary Peter Duncan committed a future Conservative government to reversing the amalgamation of the six historic Scottish regiments into one, saying:

“I pledge that a Conservative government will reverse any Scottish regiment cuts made by Hoon, Brown and Blair.  We will reinstate six distinct Scottish regiments.  All Labour offers is a cap badge and a war memorial. We will save the Scottish six.”

Since gaining power, the Conservatives have maintained the merger and have not reinstated the Scottish regiments.

Before resigning from office in the wake of the scandal surrounding alleged inappropriate meetings between Dr Fox’s aide Adam Werrity and defence contractors, the Conservative Defence Secretary promised to boost Scotland’s defence profile, promising to bring thousands of extra jobs to the country.

However, far from boosting Scotland’s defence profile, under the Conservatives defence jobs in Scotland have fallen by over 1,000 in this year alone.  These job losses come on top of cuts that Liam Fox has previously accepted were disproportionately deeper in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

Speaking to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in June, Dr Fox said: “between 2000 and 2010, the total reduction [in service jobs] was 11.6% but the reduction in Scotland was 27.9%, so over the decade there were bigger reductions made in personnel as a proportion than in other parts of the UK.”

Commenting, SNP Westminster leader and Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“The former Secretary of State is in no position to lecture Scotland on defence matters. This is after all the man who promised a ‘substantial uplift of the defence footprint in Scotland’.  Instead we have bases closing and fewer service and civilian personnel based in Scotland than ever before.

“He has already admitted that former Westminster governments cut military personnel numbers in Scotland by 27 per cent over recent years, compared to 11 per cent across the UK as a whole.

“To top it all off, last year Liam Fox said that Scotland would benefit from the return of up to 7,000 personnel currently based in Germany and investment in new purpose-built barracks at Kirknewton. Instead, defence jobs continue to be cut and construction of the new facility has been abandoned.

“Liam Fox should take this opportunity to explain why the Tories broke their promises on restoring historic regiments, and increasing the defence footprint in Scotland.

“It’s no wonder that people in Scotland do not trust a word the Tories say on defence or any other matter. It is only with the powers of a normal independent country that Scotland will be able to end the disproportionate, damaging and dangerous cuts that Westminster continues to preside over.”