600 Royal Navy personnel may be stationed at Rosyth
UP TO 600 Royal Navy personnel are expected to be stationed in Fife for four years from 2015 while Britain’s new aircraft carriers are prepared for service.
Local MP Thomas Docherty said he expects a decision on the future of HMS Caledonia at Rosyth naval base to be announced by ministers within weeks.
Following talks between the MP and defence ministers, it is understood that Royal Navy personnel equivalent in number to an army battalion will be stationed there from 2015.
The personnel will help with sea trials and general preparations of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier before it is commissioned in 2017 and moved to Portsmouth.
Another 600 are then due to be moved to the base to prepare the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, before it is commissioned in 2020 and also moved to Portsmouth, which will become home of the surface fleet.
Mr Docherty said that the move would be “a major boost for the Fife economy” and was an example of how being in the UK benefits Scotland.
He said: “This is up to 600 personnel and their families moving into Fife with their spending power, so it really is good news for the local economy.”
The Labour MP said he had held “many talks with ministers” about the Royal Navy’s future at Rosyth. He added: “This is an example of the benefits of being in the UK and the investment in Scotland which would be lost with separation.”
The plans are an alternative to the proposal in 2011 to turn HMS Caledonia into an army base.
Earlier this month, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that the decision to turn it into an army base had been reversed because the size of the army in Scotland was not being doubled to between 6,500 and 7,000 as originally planned.
The reduction in the proposed number of troops in Scotland also saw plans to build a new super-barracks at Kirknewton, just outside Edinburgh, ditched by the government.
In his statement, Mr Hammond also confirmed that Caledonia would be used as a Royal Navy base.
The plans to move extra personnel there have been made because the final fitting work and sea trials on the new super carriers will be done from Rosyth. Last night, the Ministry of Defence confirmed the future of the base was guaranteed until 2020.
An MoD spokesman said: “There is no longer a requirement to base army units in Caledonia on a long-term basis, but Caledonia continues to be a great utility for defence, particularly as the base for carrier crews until 2020.
“Caledonia will continue to be used to accommodate navy personnel currently at the site, but no decisions have been taken on basing any additional personnel there between 2015 and 2020.”
The size of the Royal Navy in Scotland is at the heart of plans to increase the overall military footprint north of the Border, bringing the total number of armed forces personnel up to 12,547 by 2020.
While the army is going up by 600-800 to around 4,000, the RAF is being halved to about 1,500. Around 8,000 personnel will be Royal Navy, mostly serving at Faslane where the UK’s submarine fleet is to be based.
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