Fort George barracks set to be saved in latest round of defence cuts
AN historic Army barracks is set to be saved from the Government’s looming defence shake-up.
• Fort George is the Highland home of the famous Black Watch
• Barracks at Ardersier not now being earmarked for closure by UK defence chiefs
• The announcement over future cuts has been postponed until early in the New Year.
Fort George, the home of the famous Black Watch, is again set to escape the latest round of Government cuts.
SNP’s defence spokesman Angus Robertson, the group’s leader at Westminster, said he hoped speculation over the barracks’ future was true, adding: “It is vital all Scottish military bases are retained.”
The 18th century fortress at Ardersier, near Inverness, is currently not in the plans of defence chiefs.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “We can’t speculate ahead of the ongoing basing review.”
Ministers have delayed naming the victims of the latest round of cuts, but Fort George is virtually certain to be saved, unless of a last-minute turnaround.
An announcement was due to have been made this week, but has been postponed until early in the New Year.
Mr Robertson said: “The delayed MoD announcement is extremely unsettling for service personnel and families, especially in the run up to Christmas.
“We have not been told about Fort George, but the SNP is in favour of maintaining all current military bases in Scotland.
“Many people had been expecting confirmation of the future of their unit, but unfortunately Whitehall has again let them down.”
There had been concerns over the future of Fort George when more cuts were announced last year, but its possible retention as an infantry base increases the likelihood that the Black Watch will also remain stationed there.
However, they may be joined by other battalions in the shake up.
Nearby Kinloss Barracks, which recently became home to the 39 Engineer Regiment following the departure of the RAF after the last MoD review, is expected to be included in the review.
It has been suggested Defence Secretary Philip Hammond may move additional troops to the base or sell of parts of the land to the private sector.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “There was a hare set running that it was under threat, so it’s really good news that it looks like being saved because it’s so important to the local economy, in terms of the personnel based there, their families and the money that is put into the local economy because it is an operational base and has a supply chain.”
An MoD spokeswoman said: “The Army footprint in Scotland is being considered as part of the ongoing basing review.
“Because of the new form of Private Finance and the reductions in resource spending announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement we will make an announcement on this next year.
“Our plans envisage a major Army presence at Leuchars and we expect the total numbers of Armed Forces personnel in Scotland to increase. The final plans will make the best use of the existing Defence Estate and achieve the best value for money for the taxpayer.”
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