ALEX Salmond has despatched an angry tirade to David Cameron demanding the Prime Minister apologise for the UK Government’s “deplorable” handling of its military base review.
In a furious letter to No 10, which sends relations between London and Edinburgh to a new low, Salmond accuses the UK Government of “betrayal” over its decision to relocate fewer troops in Scotland than pledged two years ago.
He goes on to savage the behaviour of Defence Secretary Philip Hammond who, he claims, has shown “shameful disregard” by going back on previous promises and for ignoring Scottish officials, while attending to the needs of service personnel in England.
The process, he concludes, has broken the UK Government’s “bond of trust” with Scotland and “irrevocably shattered any remaining claim that your government had to taking forward the best interests of Scotland”.
Hammond last week announced that just under 800 troops currently based in Germany would be repatriated back to Scotland. However, his predecessor, Liam Fox, declared in 2011 that the number of troops based in Scotland as a result of the move would more than double from around 3,500 to 8,500.
Fox’s original plan to build a “super barracks” at Kirknewton, West Lothian, was also ditched by Hammond. However, he insisted that the number of army personnel based north of the Border was still scheduled to increase by 2020.
The First Minister’s letter comes a few months after Salmond and Cameron pledged to work constructively together after signing the Edinburgh Agreement on the rules for the independence referendum campaign. But the row over defence appears to show that the gloves have now come off.
In his letter, Salmond tells Cameron: “This week has seen an announcement by your government on military basing which shamefully disregards clear promises to Scotland that were made less than two years ago. You should now apologise for the breaking of those commitments to the people of Scotland.”
Salmond also accuses Hammond of “dissembling” last week after the Defence Secretary claimed that fresh cuts to army numbers made after Fox’s initial pledge – from 94,000 to 82,000 – had made a bigger increase in troop numbers in Scotland impossible to fulfil. This is despite the fact Fox himself had raised the issue of a further headcount reduction. “Philip Hammond should apologise to the people of Scotland for his misleading remarks,” Salmond writes.
A source close to the First Minister said: “The Scottish Government had extensive, confidential discussions with the army ahead of the proposals Liam Fox brought forward, but in light of the UK’s decision to break its promises to the people of Scotland and our service personnel, it is important people know the true extent of the UK Government’s betrayal.”
But a Downing Street spokesman said: “It is regrettable that the First Minister has chosen to write in such intemperate terms about an announcement that will increase both the army and overall military footprint in Scotland.
“The total number of armed forces personnel will rise in Scotland by over 600 – giving Scotland its fair share of military numbers on a population basis – and we will be spending more than £100 million on refurbishing military facilities in Scotland.”