‘Promises broken’ as Scottish defence jobs fall to new low
THE number of defence personnel in Scotland has hit a new post-Second World War low, despite promises that the military footprint north of the Border would increase.
According to figures produced by the Ministry of Defence’s analytical services agency, the number of civilian and military staff in Scotland now stands at 15,500, down from 17,300 a year ago.
The official figures mean that 380 MoD jobs have been lost in Scotland in the last quarter, bringing the number of defence job losses in Scotland to 1,040 so far during 2012.
The total includes 11,020 service personnel – an almost 50 per cent drop from the peak post-war figure of 20,000 in 1989.
The fall has come despite promises, made by former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox when he unveiled his bases review in July last year, that the “military footprint in Scotland will increase”.
Before he was forced to resign, Dr Fox had unveiled plans to double the size of the army in Scotland to 6,500, as well as increase the size of the navy by rebasing the Astute class submarines at Faslane.
But since Dr Fox was replaced by Phillip Hammond, doubts have been raised by experts and military sources about whether the plans will go ahead.
There are already concerns that Leuchars will not see army replacements for a withdrawn RAF, and plans to build super-barracks in Kirknewton, West Lothian, have reportedly been dropped.
Retired colonel Stuart Crawford said that there are now doubts among the military establishment that plans to bring back troops from Germany to Scotland will happen.
He said: “The question is whether there will be a multi-role brigade in Scotland as announced. The answer is maybe or maybe not, given that Mr Hammond seems to have changed so much of what his predecessor decided.”
He added: “It is possible the MoD will drag its feet and wait to see what happens in the [independence] referendum.”
The latest figures show the majority of service job cuts come from the Royal Navy, with 140 job losses, followed by the RAF at 80. There are only 3,340 RAF personnel in Scotland, a historic low – and this is before RAF Leuchars closes as an airbase.
The change on one quarter is 2.39 per cent fewer jobs overall in Scotland, compared with 1.35 per cent in England.
SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP pointed out that Dr Fox had accepted, when he gave evidence to the Scottish affairs select committee early last year, that over the previous decade Scotland had been “disproportionately” hit by military cuts compared with the rest of the UK.
Mr Robertson said: “These latest figures show the UK government has continued the disproportionate decline in Scotland’s defence footprint, at a time when we were promised an increased conventional presence.
“The MoD’s capabilities have now shrunk to the lowest level in living memory, raising questions over promises by the Defence Secretary of a substantial increase in Scotland’s defence footprint.
“Last year the MoD said Scotland would be benefiting from the return of up to 7,000 personnel currently based in Germany, and investment in new purpose-built barracks at Kirknewton. We now know defence jobs continue to be cut, and construction of the Kirknewton facility has been abandoned.
“The loss of these service and civilian jobs take the total number defence job losses in Scotland over the last decade to more than 11,000 - on top of a £5.6 billion underspend which has seen the closure of bases and the creation of mammoth capability gaps.”
He added: “Far from Scotland benefiting from a Union dividend, we have been hit again and again by a UK defence downturn. It’s no wonder the people in Scotland cannot trust a word the UK government say on defence.”
The MoD insisted last night that the decline would be reversed and that the effects of the bases review have yet to be felt in Scotland.
Many of the plans are not set to come to fruition until after 2015.
An MoD spokesman said: “Defence of the UK is planned, organised, resourced and managed on a UK-wide basis to meet the needs of the UK as a whole while achieving best value for money. No decisions have been taken on future army rebasing, which includes the proposals for Kirknewton. A basing study is currently being conducted which will report later this year.
“Only last month, 39 Engineer Regiment took over the former RAF Kinloss, site which will see more than 900 soldiers relocating to Scotland from England. In addition, the plans for the return of 20,000 troops from Germany by 2020 have not been finalised.”
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