By Martin Kelly
The Scottish National Party has criticised what it described as a ‘dog’s breakfast’, an announcement by the Ministry of Defence of closures of reserve centres after it emerged Scotland would be disproportionately hit.
The attack followed an announcement by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond who today confirmed that 7 out of 38 Army and Navy reserve centres to be closed are in Scotland.
The Scottish closures, which amount to 18% of the UK total, is more than twice Scotland’s population share. The centres announced for closure are in: Dunfermline, Dunoon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Keith, Kirkcaldy and Wick.
Westminster SNP Leader and defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said the announcement was a “massive discourtesy” to the communities affected.
“The reserve forces have a long, proud and invaluable tradition of service, and they deserve better than today’s shambles.” said the MP.
“It is high time to make better defence decisions in Scotland rather than allow Westminster to make bad decisions on our behalf.
“A higher proportion of closures in Scotland than in the rest of the UK is something we are sadly used to from the MoD and adds to the 520 redundancies already revealed this week at locations across Scotland.
“Whilst we welcome some of the long overdue improvements in the terms and conditions for reservists, the changes will arouse suspicion that it is another coalition cost cutting move not really aimed at modernising the army for the 21st Century.”
The closures are part of longer-term restructuring of the Armed Forces under the UK coalition’s defence review, which will see significant cuts in the Regular Army.
However this afternoon there was anger after it emerged the UK Defence Secretary failed to consult with, or even notify, any Scottish Government Minister in advance of the statement.
In a telephone conversation with Dr Andrew Murrison, MoD Minister responsible for the relationship with devolved administrations, Scottish Government Veterans Minister Keith Brown pressed for details on what the White Paper on Reserve Forces meant for Scotland.
Mr Brown also made clear that the UK Government was letting down the people of Scotland by not engaging in advance of any announcements with the Scottish Government, employers or Reservists and their families on what plans were being taken forward.
Commenting, the Scottish Government Minister said: “Despite our engagement with the UK Government there is a continued lack of clarity around the actual impact in Scotland.
“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 engage with the Scottish Government on matters that have an impact on Scotland.”
In July 2011 the then Secretary of State for Defence set out a defence transformation programme, including signalling the end to RAF operations at Leuchars following a decision in 2010 to withdraw the RAF from Kinloss. The UK Government pledged that these cuts would be mitigated through a substantial uplift to the military footprint in Scotland, however, two years on they have failed to keep their commitment.
Mr Brown added: “Scotland’s service personnel have faced decades of UK Government cuts and the Scottish Government recognises that our troops deserve better. We are doing our part – building an approach that is second to none in the UK – covering areas of health, employment, education and housing.
“Army reservists have a vital role in our defence and security and I welcome plans announced today to give them healthcare benefits and military pensions.
“The Scottish Government has made clear that in the event of independence we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane – which will be Scotland’s main conventional naval facility. Our long-term commitment will ensure defence and security that supports jobs and local economies in all the communities in Scotland that are home to military bases.”
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