HUNDREDS of Army families face massive upheaval as the Royal Scots Borderers are moved from Edinburgh to Belfast.
The move will see the number of troops in the Capital cut by 40 per cent. Claire McIntosh, 28, whose husband Barry is serving in Afghanistan and has a four-year-old son, Keir, said: “I wanted to bring my son up in Edinburgh, but we don’t have an option.”
The announcement that the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland is to move to Belfast next year has left hundreds of families facing upheaval.
From Dalkeith, Claire has been married for three years and wanted to bring up Keir in Edinburgh.
She said: “I just don’t want to bring my wee one up in a different country. One Scots have always been in the middle of the city and I think people in the surrounding areas will feel sad as well. I just don’t understand it. They’re keeping 3 Rifles and moving them in here when they are from down south.”
Claire, who works as a kitchen manager in Morningside, said rumours had been circulating for months but the news still came as
She said: “You hear all these stories about Northern Ireland, one minute it’s quiet, the next it’s all kicking off.
“What sort of a life can you build there when you are limited where you can be by a perimeter fence?”
Hundreds of families uprooted
Hundreds of forces families are facing the upheaval of moving after the latest army shake-up ended the Royal Scots’ centuries-old link with Edinburgh.
A review of military bases announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond will see the 600-strong 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland – otherwise known as the Royal Scots Borderers – leave Dreghorn barracks next year and move to Northern Ireland.
The move breaks the historic ties between the city and the 380-year-old Royal Scots regiment.
The overall shake-up will mean a 40 per cent cut in the number of troops based in Edinburgh.
Mr Hammond confirmed that plans announced by his predecessor Liam Fox in 2011 for a new super-barracks at Kirknewton, housing up to 2000 soldiers, had been abandoned, as had proposals to sell off Dreghorn.
Part of Redford Barracks will still close, however, and the headquarters base at Craigiehall will shut with the loss of around 100 civilian jobs.
Under the shake-up, the 600-strong 3rd Battalion The Rifles will switch from Redford to Dreghorn; the 100-strong 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland will move up from Canterbury to Redford; the 51st Infantry Brigade Headquarters will be brought to Redford from Stirling; and the 600-strong 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland will remain at Glencorse barracks, near Penicuik, which will be upgraded.
The overall effect of the moves is to reduce the number of army personnel in the Capital by around 500. And the move will cause a massive upheaval for families of serving soldiers who now face having to move to Belfast.
Akanisi Kedrayate, 31, who is originally from Fiji, was a chef with the Royal Scots for four years and served with them in Iraq. She married Lance Corporal Samu Kedrayate, who is currently serving in Afghanistan, in 2004 and left the army two years later to have children Louise, eight, Kenu, four, Ellis, 23 months and Bella, six months.
She said: “We have been here since 2002 and love living in Edinburgh. It is really friendly and all of our neighbours are great. It has been a great home. We have never been to Northern Ireland so I don’t know what it’s like but we will definitely miss Edinburgh.”
Jacqui Chauke, whose Lance Corporal husband Raymond is in Afghanistan, attended a family meeting held at Dreghorn Barracks last night with children Makiya, seven, Kalia, five, and Kayleigh, one. She said there were about 40 families who went to the official announcement by army bosses.
She said: “We still don’t know when we’re going, just that it’s next year. They explained their reasons behind why it’s us going but I still don’t understand them.
“They talked about our marital quarters and the schools that are over there. We’ll be based on the barracks, which is different to now. I think it is upsetting to a lot of people because they are used to being here and they have to move away from it all.
“It’s part of army life. I’m from Edinburgh and the battalion has been here a long time so you can’t expect to be here forever. I think my mum will be the most upset because of the grandkids but Belfast isn’t that far away.”
The Royal Scots were founded in 1633 and their headquarters have always been in Edinburgh Castle.
They merged with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in 2006 under the controversial amalgamation of the Scottish regiments, but remained headquartered in the Capital.
It is expected they will continue to recruit from this area.
Des Brogan, a military historian and director of Edinburgh’s Mercat Tours said: “While I can understand that the MoD must take decisions for operational reasons, it is very sad that the connection between the oldest regiment in the British army, the Royal Scots, and its geographical and traditional recruiting base, Edinburgh and the Lothians, is being severed. Part of the strength and uniqueness of these proud and famous fighting Scots regiments came from their link with the local community.”
Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon Macdonald welcomed the decision to retain Dreghorn Barracks, but admitted he was surprised by the move to take the Royal Scots out of Scotland. “Many soldiers have just returned from Afghanistan and are due some much-needed rest, so it is disappointing that just when they should be spending time with their families they need to start thinking about relocating to Belfast sometime next year.
“In addition to the Royal Scots Borderers transfer we have the 3rd Battalion The Rifles being transferred from Redford to Dreghorn Barracks; so it would appear the local regiment is being shipped out to make way for a regiment who recruits from Yorkshire and the North East of England and who will be homeless in 2014 as a result of the UK Governments decision to sell off some or all of the barracks at Redford.”
Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir also said the decision to move the Royal Scots was “deeply disappointing.” He said: “Local regiments are held in high esteem. We see them as vital not just for national defence but also for our local communities. They have an identity here.”
Mr Keir added that the loss of Craigiehall would leave a hole in the communities of Kirkliston and Queensferry. “We are being let down by the Liberals and Tories in London,” he said.
An MoD spokeswoman said the army had been faced with the choice of moving either 1 Scots or 3 Rifles to Belfast. “There is currently a rifle brigade in Belfast so to avoid having two rifle brigades there we went for moving 1 Scots.”
She said it was recognised that the plans would mean many families having to move, but added that the review was intended to create more stability by moving units around far less in the future. “Traditionally, families move with the soldiers. However, it would be down to individuals to decide.”
Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart, who attacked the original plans to close all Edinburgh’s military bases as “historical vandalism”, said the decision to keep Dreghorn, part of Redford and abandon the Kirknewton super-barracks was “a welcome retreat”.
But he voiced disappointment at the closure of Craigiehall. He said: “The loss of experienced and dedicated individuals along with their valuable skills and expertise is a mistake. Our focus must now be to ensure that each and every person affected by that closure gets the support they need to move on.”
A PROPOSED redevelopment of RAF Kirknewton in West Lothian will not go ahead.
In August 2011, the MoD had announced plans to build a “super-barracks” on the site at an estimated cost of £400m, which was to be partially funded by the selling-off of the Army’s Redford and Dreghorn barracks, alongside its Craigiehall headquarters. Critics of the plans said the location did not have the infrastructure to cope with hundreds of soldiers and families. The site will remain home to a glider field.
Scotland’s current Army headquarters, the historic Craigiehall in Queensferry, will be closed and sold off. The closure will see the loss of around 100 civilian jobs. The present barracks complex was largely built in 1937-1939.
The 3rd Battalion Rifles are to be moved from Redford to Dreghorn infantry barracks to replace the Borderers. Cavalry barracks used by visiting troops for the Tattoo look set to be sold off. The headquarters of the 51st Infantry Brigade will move to Redford along with the 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland from Canterbury to Redford.
Dreghorn barracks in Colinton will no longer be sold off, but the MoD has announced that its current occupants, 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, will move to Belfast next year. The 600-strong 3rd Battalion the Rifles will then move in to the infantry barracks to replace the Borderers. The barracks were built in the grounds of Dreghorn Castle.
Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, home to the 2nd Battalion Regiment of Scotland, will be unaffected. It looks likely that the barracks, which house 600 soldiers, will be upgraded.
The barracks closed in 2003 for a £60 million revamp. Glencorse Barracks date from 1803, when they were first used to hold prisoners, then known as Greenlaw Military Prison.
EDINBURGH ONE OF SEVEN TROOP CLUSTERS
EDINBURGH is one of seven clusters across the UK where troops will be concentrated under the review of military bases for 2020, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs.
He said the UK Government was investing £1.8 billion in infrastructure and accommodation as the return of all British troops from Germany got under way.
Returning soldiers would be stationed mainly around seven centres – Salisbury Plain, Edinburgh and Leuchars, Catterick, Aldershot, Colchester, Stafford and the East Midlands.
But some bases across the country would close as part of a shake-up which would save £240 million a year in running costs.
The number of personnel based north of the Border will increase by about 600, far fewer than 6000 originally promised. But Mr Hammond insisted Scotland would still have “a little bit more than its fair share” of military personnel based on the size of its population.
Two army units returning from Germany will be based at RAF Leuchars, which is to be converted to an army base in 2015.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the UK Government of a breach of trust. Scotland previously had disproportionate cuts to defence, she said. “The increase in army personnel, if it’s fulfilled, would simply return us to the numbers of military personnel here in 2008.”
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the UK Government had reneged on its promise.
He said: “A previous pledge of thousands more troops to Scotland has become a plan for just hundreds. It is a real blow to Scotland and will not be forgotten.”
But Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: “We are seeing £100 million of investment in military infrastructure and hundreds of additional soldiers coming to Scottish army bases, bringing the total number to 4000.”