Territorial Army to make up almost a half of extra 6,500 soldiers
THE government has backtracked on a commitment to double the size of the regular army in Scotland, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and the head of the army, General Sir David Richards, admitting a proportion of the total based north of the Border will actually be members of the Territorial Army.
Sources have told The Scotsman that as many as 2,500 of the 6,500 due to be based in Scotland by 2020 will be members of the TA.
The promise by former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox to double the size of the regular army was part of the basing review announcement last year. The increase in personnel was meant to compensate for the loss of regular posts in the RAF with the airforce pulling out of Kinloss in Moray and shortly Leuchars in Fife.
When he announced the increase in the number of army personnel in Scotland to parliament on 18 July last year, Dr Fox was asked by Scottish Labour MP Sandra Osborne, a member of the defence select committee, how many of the regular troops returning from bases in Germany would go to Scotland.
Dr Fox said: “It is impossible to give an exact number, but I would imagine that between 6,500 and 7,000, or something of that order, of the 20,000 personnel we currently have in Germany will be coming back to the multi-role brigades in Scotland.”
Earlier he had told MPs: “The other two MRBs (multi-role brigades) will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh. The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300.”
He added: “Taken together, this represents a significant increase in the defence footprint in Scotland of well over 2,000 posts [in all the services].”
But at the defence select committee Mr Hammond and Gen Richards were pressed by Labour Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty over how many of the 6,500 would be TA and not regular full time members of the forces.
Mr Hammond said: “That [proportion of regulars and reserves] depends on which part of the army they come from.”
Sir David, chief of staff, then told the committee that only the heavy army brigades will be made up almost entirely of regulars, while the plan for Scotland is for a mobile infantry brigade.
Mr Docherty said that clarity is needed with this review and in a number of areas including the future of bases. He went on: “The reality is that no part of the SDSR (Strategic Defence and Security Review) decision made by Liam Fox which has come into contact with Philip Hammond has survived. The question of regulars and reserves in Scotland is another example of that.”
SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said: “Last year the defence secretary was absolutely clear that Scotland would benefit from the return of 7,000 regulars – but with every new excuse and delay by the MoD, delivery of these numbers seems less and less likely.”
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