Officials statistics released by the Ministry of Defence show a continuing decline in the number of service and civilian MOD personnel based in Scotland.
In light of this continuing and long-term decline in the military footprint in Scotland, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written again to Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond urging clarity around the future of defence in Scotland.
Since 2000 the total number of UK service and civilian MOD personnel has dropped by almost 20 per cent (53,510). The reduction has disproportionately affected Scotland where we have seen a drop of over 35 per cent (8,800) over the same period.
In the last year Scotland saw a bigger proportionate decline in MOD service personnel than any other UK nation. In 2011 – 2012, Scotland saw a 7.5 per cent reduction in service personnel in Scotland as opposed to 2.5 per cent in England, 1.5 per cent in Wales and 6.8 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“These figures make for very worrying reading. Again we are seeing the Ministry of Defence impose drastic and disproportionate cuts to the number of service and civilian MOD personnel in Scotland.
“In July last year the MOD set out the Defence Transformation Programme. Since then the local communities throughout Scotland which host military bases have been faced with prolonged uncertainty.
“While the initial announcement was disappointing in a number of respects, in particular the decision to withdraw the RAF from Leuchars – which came shortly after the end to RAF operations at Kinloss – it was promised that the cuts would be mitigated by the establishment of a multi-role brigade in Scotland.
“The then Defence Secretary also promised that, due to the return of Army personnel from Germany, Scotland would see a considerable uplift of over 2,000 military personnel.
“The MOD had committed to clarifying its position on this before the end of the year – a deadline which they have now said they will not meet.
“Since July last year, we have been urging the UK Government to end the uncertainty and provide the clarity that our communities need. I have written again today to the Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond urging him to stand by the MOD’s commitment to confirm the future defence basing and personnel footprint as soon as possible.”
The new figures follow a FoI which revealed the scale of the continuing defence underspend in Scotland over recent years, which deprives Scottish businesses of public contracts.
Certain types of defence contracts are exempt from EU procurement laws in what is known as an article 346 exemption, allowing the Westminster Government to choose where it purchases equipment and services. However, it has been revealed that the proportion of contracts awarded to firms in Scotland has been far below Scotland’s share of either population or GDP.
The figures show that of Ministry of Defence contract expenditure since 2007 which is exempt from EU procurement laws, just 5.3% was spent in Scotland. This equates to an underspend of over £1.8 billion in Scotland over the last five years compared to Scotland’s population share.
The MoD figures raise serious questions for the Westminster Government after Defence Procurement Minister Peter Luff recently claimed in evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that 10% of defence procurement takes place in Scotland, despite official figures indicating that this is not the case.
A Parliamentary Question last year also revealed that in 2010/11 just 50 out of 6,000 MoD contracts placed with SMEs went to companies in Scotland, a rate of just 0.83%.
Commenting, SNP Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“In contrast to claims by Westminster politicians, that Scotland does well out of UK defence contracts, the reality is quite different.
“Scotland’s defence footprint has been disproportionately cut over the last decade, with over 11,000 jobs lost and a £5.6 billion defence underspend which has seen the closure of bases and the creation of significant capability gaps.
“What is crystal clear from these new figures is that the choices made in Westminster mean that Scottish businesses are still seeing a far lower share of defence contracts than they should be.
“These shocking statistics makes a mockery of some of the statements that have been made by anti-independence politicians and suggests that they urgently need to get a grip of what is actually happening.
“Instead of attempting to come up with misleading figures, the Westminster Government would be well advised to actually look at the evidence their own civil servants are producing and address the fact that Scotland has seen a defence underspend for far too long.
“Instead of these decisions being made by a Westminster Government with its head stuck firmly in the sand, choices on Scotland’s defence footprint should be made by an independent Scottish Government – which means getting rid of unusable and unwanted Trident nuclear weapons, and investing in strong conventional defence.”