PLANS to double the size of the army in Scotland could be unravelling following the latest round of cuts to military personnel, military sources have warned.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday announced that 4,200 redundancy notices would be served on military personnel in June, in the second of three rounds of job cuts in the services, which will lead to 17,000 being given their marching orders.
While the MoD has refused to say where most of the jobs will be lost, military sources have told The Scotsman that the redundancies could affect plans to increase the size of the army in Scotland to about 6,500.
It is understood that the proposal made by former defence secretary Liam Fox, and seen by some as an attempt to counter Scottish nationalism, is already under review by his successor, Philip Hammond.
A source told The Scotsman that many of the 2,900 army redundancies could be posts in Germany from units that were to be transferred to Scotland.
The briefing appears to confirm a comment made by armed forces minister Nick Harvey when answering a question from Sir Menzies Campbell before Christmas, where he suggested that the plans to move army units to Scotland was being looked at again.
Writing on this page, former SAS commander Clive Fairweather also claims that speculation over a second review is widespread in defence circles.
Meanwhile, this summer the axe will fall on 1,000 RAF personnel and 300 from the Royal Navy. It is believed many of the RAF posts will also be Scottish ones, with two bases – Leuchars and Kinloss – being closed and officially intended for army use.
The speculation has led SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson to claim that the reality is Scotland has been “disproportionately hit” by the strategic defence and security review (SDSR).
He said: “Potentially, we are not only looking at a further cut to the RAF footprint in Scotland, but also a reduction in the promised number of army personnel to be located at Scottish bases.”
An MoD spokesman said details on where personnel would be lost would not be made clear until June, when the redundancy notices were issued.
Last night, a row was also brewing over the Gurkha regiment, where 400 men are to be made redundant from the 3,500-strong brigade.
Actress Joanna Lumley, a leading campaigner on Gurkhas’ rights, warned compulsory redundancies would be a “tragedy”. The army will lose eight brigadiers and 60 lieutenant-colonels, as well as 500 infantry privates.
Posts earmarked to go at the Royal Navy include five commodores, 17 captains and 19 Royal Marines officers at lieutenant-colonel, colonel and brigadier ranks, while some 80 Fleet Air Arm jobs will also be axed.
In the RAF, up to 15 air commodores and 30 group captains will be among the posts being scrapped.
The redundancies will be the last “major” wave of job losses for the navy and RAF, officials said.
Mr Hammond insisted he had “no choice” but to make the cuts in the second tranche of the redundancy programme set out in the SDSR as he tries to plug the £38 billion black hole in the defence budget.
However, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, described the redundancies as “wrong-headed and rushed”.