The Deputy First Minister has criticised plans to downgrade Scotland’s military footprint, following publication of the UK Government’s defence basing review, describing the plans as “a breach of trust”.
Following the announcement that the number of armed forces personnel based in Scotland will rise by only around 600 – compared to the rise of up to 7000 in troops promised by Liam Fox in July 2011 – and that further Army facilities will close, Nicola Sturgeon has called on the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to “stick by its commitment to Scotland”.
The measures announced by UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond today include:
• Rebasing of troops from Germany will mean an increase of only around 600 regular armed forces personnel to Scotland – meaning only a small proportion of the 16,000 army personnel based in Germany will come here
• Scotland’s Army HQ at Craigiehall in Edinburgh is to be disposed of
• Scotland’s military estate is to be further reduced with the partial closure of Redford Barracks in the capital and that of 51 Brigade HQ at Forthside in Stirling
In addition to the cuts to personnel and bases, today’s announcement by the UK government also confirms that plans for a new barracks at Kirknewton and for a military training area in Scotland have been abandoned – both pledges made by the then UK Defence Secretary in 2011.
Today’s announcements – if fulfilled – mean Scotland’s military footprint will not recover from disproportionate cuts in personnel and facilities compared to the rest of the UK over the last decade.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“Scotland’s military, their families and communities are dedicated and committed people, and they deserve better.
“This announcement falls far, far short of the commitments given to Scotland by Liam Fox in 2011. It represents a breach of trust and a failure to work together to meet the principles the UK government set out in its covenant with the armed forces.
“Almost two years ago, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars would become Army bases and, while the RAF presence in Scotland would fall, a rise of up to 7,000 Army personnel would mean a net gain of at least 2,000 in the military footprint in Scotland.
“Today’s announcement means just around 600 more armed forces personnel will now be transferred to Scotland – only a very small proportion of those being rebased from Germany to the UK.
“Scotland has already seen disproportionate cuts in our defence footprint, which has fallen by more than a third since 2000. Between 2000 and 2012, Scotland saw a fall of 35.66 per cent in its service and civilian MoD personnel – compared to a fall of 15.16 per cent in England.
“The increase in Army personnel announced today – if it’s fulfilled – would simply return us to the numbers of military personnel here in 2008.
“Changes at Leuchars are a disappointment compared to what was originally promised – on top of the news back in 2011 that the RAF would pull out of Leuchars and Kinloss, we now see that numbers at Leuchars will not reach the 1,300 suggested by Liam Fox and that there do not appear to be any plans for an Army HQ at Leuchars.
“In addition, in Edinburgh, confirmation of the decision to dispose of Craigiehall and part of Redford Barracks will cause great disappointment in our capital city. The MOD must work closely with the local authority to mitigate the impact of these decisions.
“We will do all we can to work with all the local authorities to try to minimise the impact on local businesses and local people in communities affected around Scotland, and I would urge the UK Ministry of Defence to do the same.
“In July 2011 a promise was made to Scotland’s military community: although bases would be reduced in number, Army personnel would be increased by between 6,500 and 7000. Failure to fulfil that promise is a breach of trust and is simply not acceptable.
“The MoD made a commitment nearly two years ago and it must stick by its commitment to Scotland. Our military, their families and communities deserve nothing less.”