Kinloss barracks at risk of closure, warns Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson.  Picture Ian Rutherford
Angus Robertson. Picture Ian Rutherford
Have your say

The future of Kinloss army barracks has been thrown into doubt after the SNP leader at Westminster claimed the base was among military sites being considered for closure.

Angus Robertson accused the Ministry of Defence of “betrayal” and warned the base on the Moray coast could be axed as part of a £1 billion savings drive.

Nimrods on the tarmac at RAF Kinloss in 2006. Picture: PA

Nimrods on the tarmac at RAF Kinloss in 2006. Picture: PA

MoD officials said no decision had been made on the future of Kinloss, but new investment in Scotland was focused on nearby RAF Lossiemouth and the Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

Mr Robertson, MP for Moray, accused the UK government of breaking promises made four years ago, when the scrapping of the RAF’s fleet of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft ended Kinloss’ 73-year history as an air station.

The base was handed over to the army and is now home to 39 Regiment of the Royal Engineers, who were shifted from their base near Cambridge in 2012. Around 720 military personnel and 200 family members are based at Kinloss.

“At that time the UK government promised an army presence at the base and for that to be under threat in such a short space of time is totally unacceptable,” said Mr Robertson.

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Picture: Contributed

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Picture: Contributed

“Moray’s communities have been massively supportive of our military personnel based both at Lossiemouth and Kinloss.

“Tory defence cuts have hit Moray hard with the widely condemned decision to scrap the Nimrod fleet. That should never have happened and if Kinloss were to close so soon after the Tory’s promises it would be a real kick in the teeth.”

Mr Robertson said “impeccable” sources within the MoD had indicated Kinloss was among the sites being considered for closure as part of a Defence Estates Review that will cut the footprint of its bases across the UK by 30 per cent.

However, Mr Robertson’s comments were described as “unfortunate” by the Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Douglas Ross, who said the speculation was unwelcome “at an early stage of a process” that will take decades.

• READ MORE: MoD estates sell-off could see military retreat in Scotland

“I want to work across party political divides should there be a need to campaign to maintain the base,” Mr Ross said. “There are many options for securing a future at Kinloss from maintaining the status quo to using the base for other military purposes.

“There has been a long-standing and proud tradition of the local community supporting the military at Kinloss and I am determined to see that continue throughout this review and beyond.

So far 22 military sites have been marked for closure, with a final list of bases expected to be published by the end of the year. Craigiehall Estate near Edinburgh, which served as the army headquarters in Scotland until 2014, is the only Scottish site to have been named in the review. The MoD says it will engage with local MPs and MSPs as well as the Secretary of State for Scotland on any decisions affecting bases north of the Border.

Fort George army barracks near Inverness, the home of the Black Watch, is already the subject of a campaign after local politicians claimed the historic base was being considered for closure.

Scottish Government minister Keith Brown wrote to UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in June after learning of the possible risk to the base through a local liaison meeting.

Fort George, built in the 18th century, was considered for closure in a previous round of cuts in 2011.

Actor Hugh Grant has joined calls for the base to be saved after helping to raise almost £3 million for a museum dedicated to the Seaforth Highlanders, the unit his father served in during the Second World War.

A MoD spokeswoman said personnel numbers were set to increase at the Faslane naval base and RAF Lossiemouth, where new P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be based. She added: “Every penny made will be invested back into defence on things like the new maritime aircraft at Lossiemouth.”

Keep up to date with all our sport news on The Scotsman’s Sport page on Facebook