At-risk Edinburgh barracks could be saved, says general
CONTROVERSIAL plans to close historic barracks in Edinburgh and build a new complex outside the city are not certain to go ahead, according to the army’s commanding officer in Scotland.
Speaking at the High Constables’ dinner in the city, Major- General David Shaw made it clear that a key part of the bases review is now in doubt.
His comments could indicate a reprieve for the Redford and Dreghorn barracks in Edinburgh. That suggestion has been backed up by other military sources, who told The Scotsman the Ministry of Defence was having a rethink of the scheme proposed by former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox in his bases review.
However, it has also brought claims the whole review is unravelling and that other parts of it – including doubling the size of the army in Scotland to about 6,500 – may not go ahead.
The changes appear to have come about after Philip Hammond was installed as Defence Secretary following the forced resignation of Dr Fox.
Last month, Liberal Democrat armed forces minister Nick Harvey suggested in an answer to North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell that plans to relocate soldiers from Germany at Leuchars after the RAF is withdrawn are also being reviewed.
In his speech, Maj-Gen Shaw said he “expected” soldiers to end up in Leuchars but cast doubt over the proposal to build a new super-barracks at Kirknewton, to the west of Edinburgh.
The plan, revealed before the summer, was to build the Kirknewton complex on an RAF glider field and sell the Dreghorn and Redford barracks as well as the Craigiehall military headquarters near Edinburgh.
The Scotsman understands a team from the MoD visited Scotland to look at the proposed site – it was unpopular with the army who stopped using it in the 1980s because of logisitical problems – and decided it was inappropriate.
One critic of the plan, Clive Fairweather, a former SAS commander and senior army officer in Scotland, said he had been told the MoD was reconsidering the plans.
“It was a ludicrous idea and did not even stand up to the least scrutiny,” he said.
“It was opposed by the army and driven by civil servants who know nothing about the army’s needs and saw an opportunity to make money out of selling Craigiehall, Dreghorn and Redford.”
Maj-Gen Shaw did not mention Craigiehall in his speech, but he said he hoped that a proper “fighting” headquarters could be re-established in Scotland at some point.
Lib Dem Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockhart is pushing for it to become the headquarters for all three army commands.
“There was always going to be an argument that the army’s present bases in Edinburgh could be used more efficiently, and that includes Craigiehall,” he said.
Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray demanded that the MoD provided “clarity” and brought “an end to the uncertainty and concern” for communities in Edinburgh.
The SNP’s Westminster leader and defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, said the general’s comments had wider implications.
He went on: “The basing review is unravelling.
“The UK government has already created an enormous amount of uncertainty for communities and defence personnel who deserve to know what is going on. Decisions over bases in one area clearly raise knock-on questions for other communities, and the MoD must let people know where they stand.”
An MoD spokesman said: “The Kirknewton project is currently going ahead as planned. No changes have been made.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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