A FIRE sale of Ministry of Defence properties has put a new question mark over the future of several famous Scottish military bases.
After announcing a series of sales and cost-cutting measures in the MoD, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is under pressure to provide clarity on Scottish military sites which have been the subject of speculation over recent years.
These include the Redford and Dreghorn barracks in Edinburgh, Fort George near Inverness, Kinloss in Moray and a missile testing site in Benbecula.
In his speech, Mr Fallon hailed efficiencies made by the coalition government over the past five years, boasting that they have been achieved while still maintaining the Nato target for military spending to be 2 per cent of gross domestic product. But he insisted the “job is far from over” and the government has to keep “sweating our buildings and land”.
The comments, in a speech to the Institute for Government (IfG), come amid complaints about the scale of cuts to the armed forces, with the size of the army being cut by a fifth to 82,000 and plans to make up the shortfall with reserves.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also refused to commit to maintaining Britain’s defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP after the election.
Mr Fallon said: “The job’s far from over. With continuing demands on our resources, with the cost of manpower and equipment rising, and with competition from emerging nations increasing efficiency in defence cannot be a one-off.”
Signalling a large-scale sale of sites, which could include some of the 140 in Scotland, Mr Fallon said: “As in any big organisation, MoD must not merely be match-fit, it must be permanently fit. Every year we should be looking to take out unnecessary cost, to improve productivity, and to sweat our buildings and land so we can better support the front line.”
Britain needs to go further in “rationalising our defence estate”, Mr Fallon said. “We have got rid of old property we don’t need,” he insisted. “Whether it’s an old barracks, a country house, some polo fields, the Old War Office or Brompton Road Tube station, sold for £53 million. That approach has generated sales of nearly £380 million.
“We’ve taken the same tack with equipment, selling 123 surplus armoured vehicles to the Latvian army and bringing in almost £40 million and strengthening friendship with a critical Nato ally.
“Now we need to ask more questions about our assets – do we need 57 separate sites within the M25, how many airfields do we need, how many cars and vehicles do we need, and how do we go further in rationalising our defence estate?”
SNP defence spokesman and Westminster leader Angus Robertson said that the speech left a question mark over bases in Scotland.
He said: “The MoD is gearing up for another round of defence cuts and further withdrawals from Scotland.
“If there is to be a Westminster fire sale of barracks and bases, the communities to be hit will want to know before the election.”
He pointed out that the Tories promised a “super barracks” and an increase in service personnel in Scotland, “neither of which materialised”.
He added: “Instead, we have an historic low in serving personnel, and had cuts to bases, historic military units and key capabilities as well as severe pressures on military families.”
Labour’s shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker welcomed the release of assets, but said ministers have repeatedly missed their own targets on estate disposal.
“An MoD spokesman confirm that property “across the UK” will be considered for sale.
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