By a Newsnet reporter
Responding to the latest reports that the UK government is breaking defence promises to Scotland by reducing army size numbers, the SNP has said that the Scottish Parliament will be far better placed to make sensible defence decisions for the people of Scotland with independence.
This follows news that one of Britain’s most senior generals has revealed there are going to be thousands fewer regular soldiers in Scotland than the doubling of numbers promised by the UK government just eighteen months ago.
Last July, then Defence Secretary Liam Fox told MPs that “between 6,500 and 7,000, or something of that order, of the 20,000 personnel we currently have in Germany will be coming back to the multi-role brigades in Scotland”.
Under Mr Fox’s proposal, five brigades returning from Germany would have been re-located to central Scotland. This was then reduced to three this summer by new Defence Minister Philip Hammond.
However, as reported by Newsnet Scotland in December, the MoD is now urging the UK government to instead re-locate the troops to Salisbury Plain in southern England.
Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall, who is in charge of the “Future Army 2020” reconfiguration of the armed services, told MPs on the Commons defence select committee that the current size of the army in Scotland was about to increase, but only by a single unit of between 200 and 500 troops.
There are currently only 3,291 army personnel based in Scotland and the addition of one extra unit of between 200 and 500 men would bring that up to at most 3,800.
There is now speculation Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has reversed many other decisions of his predecessor Dr Fox, including not going ahead with the building of a super-barracks at Kirknewton, outside Edinburgh.
Sir Peter’s revelations have also raised questions about the future of bases that were supposed to house new troops, although the Ministry of Defence has confirmed RAF Leuchars will still have “a major army presence”.
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said:
“Just as the SNP has been warning for some time, the UK government is walking away from its defence commitments to Scotland. This is bad for personnel and service families, as well as defence-dependent communities.
“Having suffered disproportionate cuts to manpower, basing and spending, the promises to return thousands of troops to new barracks with a new training area appear hollow and cynical.
“As the UK government prepares to break defence promises to Scotland and plans to dump a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde, we need to make better defence decisions for Scotland with independence.”