By Martin Kelly
Hundreds of military personnel in Scotland have lost their jobs as a result of cutbacks in defence spending by the UK coalition it has emerged.
Figures contained in a parliamentary answer obtained by SNP MP Angus Robertson, show that over five hundred service personnel in Scotland have been made redundant by the MoD as part of Westminster austerity cuts.
The job losses affect communities the length and breadth of Scotland and include RAF Leuchars, RAF Lossiemouth, the Clyde Naval Base and Kinloss. In total 520 servicemen and women were made redundant as part of the UK coalition’s policy of planned armed forces redundancies.
Angus Robertson MP, who is the SNP’s Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson, described the job losses as a “betrayal”.
“Our first thoughts are with the 520 service personnel across Scotland who have been made redundant by Westminster in these austerity cuts. The numbers may be expected but they are still shocking to the communities they hit, and reflect the series of betrayals and U-turns by Westminster on defence issues in Scotland.
“Westminster is handing out P45s to dedicated service personnel on the one hand, while sending Ministers to Scotland as part of Project Fear to scaremonger about defence in an independent Scotland – the hypocrisy of the UK Government is shameful.
“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has said that all service personnel should have a reassurance of never being faced with compulsory redundancy during their service contract.”
The news follows repeated claims by UK Ministers that an independent Scotland would be unable to attract recruits into a Scottish military defence force. In March, UK defence Secretary Philip Hammond claimed that an independent Scotland will be too small to attract high quality recruits.
The Conservative MP ridiculed plans for a Scottish defence force claiming it would be able to offer only a “fraction” of the career opportunities of the UK army.
Last week the claims were repeated when a think-tank, which was launched last year by Better Together head Alistair Darling, repeated the claims. The group, calling itself ‘The Scotland Institute’, warned of job losses and damage to local economies if Scotland became independent.
Mr Robertson said that, far from being a threat to army personnel, independence would in fact safeguard Scottish jobs.
“The fact is that only with a Yes vote next September can we protect and develop Scotland’s defence needs – and stop Westminster’s cuts, cuts and more cuts.”
News of the military job losses came on the same day that Scottish Government Minister Keith Brown pledged a first class military in an independent Scotland.
Giving evidence to a Committee of MPs, Veterans Minister Mr Brown confirmed plans to spend £2.5bn on Scotland’s defence which would result in 15,000 military personnel. The £2.5bn spend matches currently UK government spending in Scotland, which is one billion pounds less than Scots contribute.
The MSP also reminded the Unionist dominated House of Commons Committee of past promises given to Scottish military communities which had been broken.
Mr Brown said the UK Government promised that there would be additional forces personnel in July 2011 – two years on, they have failed to deliver on this. He also reaffirmed the belief of Scottish Ministers that all service personnel should not be faced with compulsory redundancy during their service contract.
During the appearance, Mr Brown outlined the Scottish Government’s vision for defence and security, stating how the geo-strategic location of Scotland will make her an important defence partner for allies and neighbours. He highlighted that Scotland would aim to improve its maritime capabilities and play its role in being a good global citizen.
Mr Brown also said UK Government Defence Minister Philip Hammond must apologise for ‘broken promises’ made to Scotland’s military community around Westminster’s defence review.
Mr Brown said:
“Following decades of UK Government cuts, this Government is clear that an independent Scotland will have first-class conventional forces which will play a full role in defending the country and working with our global partners.
“Two years ago the UK Government committed, through the defence review, to create a significant number of additional personnel in Scotland. The reality is that they’ve failed to deliver this pledge. That is why I’m calling on the Defence Secretary to reflect on his discourtesy to Scotland’s service community on this broken promises and apologise.
“The Scottish Government recognises that our troops deserve better. We should not have the regiments they joined disbanded while on active service and we should not have our service personnel looking over their shoulder, while fighting a mortal enemy, to see if they are about to be handed a P45. All service personnel should therefore have the reassurance that they will not be faced with compulsory redundancy during their service contract.
“Scotland is in a key geo-strategic location and as such international partners will be keen to work with an independent Scotland on defence and security issues.
“Our North Sea neighbours all operate capable frigates, ocean patrol vessels, fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft and quick-reaction flights. Given the UK has non-existent or ageing capabilities in some of these areas, consideration of procurement options will be an early priority.
“Scotland stands to inherit a fair share of existing UK defence assets, and an annual defence and security budget of £2.5 billion would represent an increase of more than £500 million on recent UK levels of defence spending in Scotland but would be nearly £1 billion less than Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to UK defence spending.
“What will not squander billions of pounds on Trident nuclear weapons – and an independent and non-nuclear Scotland’s membership of NATO would put the country alongside the 25 of the alliance’s current 28 members which are non-nuclear powers.
“We have also been clear that we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane – which will be Scotland’s main conventional naval facility – and our long-term commitment will ensure continued support for jobs and local economies in all the communities around Scotland that are home to military bases.”