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By Bob Duncan
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has warned that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is about to go back on several key commitments it made to Scotland.
An announcement on the return of service personnel from Germany and the consequences for future basing requirements in the UK is expected to be made to the House of Commons this week. This announcement was expected in December of last year, but was postponed due to 'presentational problems' for the UK government.
In 2011 the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox promised that between 6,500 and 7,000 personnel would return to Scotland and be part of a new multi-role brigade. He also pledged new barracks would be built at Kirknewton in West Lothian and a new training area would be established in the Borders, in a move that would partially make up for recent disproportionate cuts in manpower, spending and basing in Scotland.
The redeployment was aimed at partially offsetting the closure of the RAF bases at Leuchars in Fife and Kinloss in Moray, which were both to become Army bases instead.
Last summer, Mr Fox told the Scottish Affairs select committee that, during the decade between 2000 and 2010, the total reduction in-service military jobs across the UK was 11.6%, but the reduction in Scotland was 27.9% - more than twice the UK average.
In 2011, during a House of Commons statement on Defence Transformation, Dr Fox told MPs:
“Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five Multi-Role Brigades. The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh.
“The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300.
“Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle barracks and eventually Arbroath, as we intend over time to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west.”
Dr Fox went on to tell MPs that the UK Government anticipated the return of up to 7,000 troops returning to Scotland from Germany:
“It is impossible to give an exact number, but I would imagine 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.”
The SNP say they believe that the imminent basing announcement will confirm that the UK Tory/Lib Dem government will go back on many of these commitments.
Commenting, Westminster SNP Leader and Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“The UK government is likely to go back on its recent defence commitments to Scotland. This would be totally unacceptable and underlines why better defence decisions should be made in Scotland with independence.
“Less than two years have passed since promises were made to the Westminster parliament that: up to 7,000 personnel will return to Scotland, there would be new barracks for them as well as a new training area. These promises were being made to partially make good on recent disproportionate cuts to personnel, spending and basing in Scotland.
“Even the MOD has acknowledged that Scotland has suffered personnel cuts nearly three times the UK average. Two out of three airbases are seeing the end of air operations and instead of appropriate conventional naval forces at Faslane we have nuclear armed submarines.
“According to the MOD s own statistics the difference between what Scottish taxpayers contribute to the MOD and what is actually spent here has gone up to a mammoth £7.4bn over recent years.
“I don't believe that a sovereign Scottish government of any mainstream hue would manage defence so badly in Scotland. It is time to make better defence decisions in Scotland and we can only do that after a Yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum.”
Speaking to the BBC an MoD spokeperson called the speculation "unfounded" and added:
"Scotland will actually get a modest increase in its Army headcount, of nearly 20%, with some units returning from Germany to the improved Leuchars base.
"The new basing plan will clarify for the first time the Army's future permanent UK locations as the Army is brought back from Germany.
"It will make the best use of the defence estate and provide better accommodation and facilities for our troops and their families.
"The new basing plan brings certainty and security to our armed forces and to Scotland.
"It will give the UK economy a £1.8bn boost, with Scotland receiving a share of this investment to spend on new and improved accommodation and facilities for its soldiers and their families."
The current state of play:
At present the British Army stations only 4 infantry battalions in Scotland:
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