MoD closures of 8 sites in Scotland ‘a bleak day for defence’, say SNP

.Major General Alastair Dickinson. Director Army Basing and Infrastructure' announces the closures at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
.Major General Alastair Dickinson. Director Army Basing and Infrastructure' announces the closures at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
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Deep cuts to the defence estate will see Scotland lose a fifth of its military bases, with the SNP calling it a “bleak day for defence” in the country.

Eight out of Scotland’s 22 military sites will be wound down over the next 15 years, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced in the House of Commons.

Historic Fort George will close as an active barracks. Picture: Contributed

Historic Fort George will close as an active barracks. Picture: Contributed

Unions warned thousands of jobs would be put at risk across the UK as the Ministry of Defence seeks to save £140 million.

The historic barracks at Fort George, a garrison for 250 years, will close, as will the last Royal Navy site in Fife.

Three barracks will be shut in the Lothians, including the 150 year-old Glencorse Barracks near Penicuik and Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in Edinburgh.

• READ MORE: In full: MoD sites in Scotland set for closure

The Scottish Government said the announcement was a “huge blow” to military communities across Scotland.

Across the UK, a total of 56 military bases will shut by 2040.

In a statement to MPs, Sir Michael said the government would invest in “fewer, better” bases in Scotland. He said: “In Scotland this strategy will result in investment being concentrated into fewer, better locations.

“Our proposals will release eight sites over the next 15 years. We will invest in main centres of specialisation.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney described the cuts as “brutal” and “deeply distressing” for communities.

SNP defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara said the outcome of the Ministry of Defence Estates Review had been worse than feared for Scotland, and claimed the UK government’s “obsession” with the Trident nuclear weapons system was forcing it to cut spending on conventional military facilities.

The Scottish sites being shut include the MoD Caledonia naval base in Rosyth, Craigiehall Barracks in Edinburgh and Forthside Barracks in Stirling.

Local political and residents waged a campaign to save Fort George, near Ardersier on the inner Moray Firth.

The barracks, which is home to the Black Watch, was built after the 1746 Jacobite rising.

Campaigners had the backing of actor Hugh Grant, who helped raise funds four years ago for a museum dedicated to the Seaforth Highlanders, his father’s unit.

The director of army basing infrastructure, Major General Alastair Dickinson, last night described Fort George as “a great monument” and “a great tourist attraction”.

• READ MORE: Why was Fort George built?

There was relief among campaigners in Moray after Kinloss Barracks – which was also the subject of a public campaign after fears were raised over its future – was left off the list of disposals.

Land sold by the MoD will be used to build up to 55,000 homes. Up to 32,000 acres will be released across the UK.

Mr Swinney said: “These brutal cuts spell the near total removal of the army from large parts of Scotland and the end of the Royal Navy’s presence in Fife.

“It is deeply distressing to witness the announcement to close truly historic sites, such as Glencorse, home to the army for almost 150 years, and Fort George, a garrison for almost 250 years.

“The decision to cut these historic ties will be met with understandable anger in Fife, Midlothian, the Highlands and throughout Scotland. These cuts will have far-reaching economic and social impacts, placing jobs at risk, both directly and indirectly.

“Despite our best efforts, the UK government has continually refused to engage with the Scottish Government ahead of these decisions being taken. It is vital that we now understand what this means in terms of personnel numbers and I call on the MoD to guarantee that army units are not further diminished or moved out of Scotland altogether.

“Scottish ministers and local communities have clearly set out our opposition to these cuts – it is deeply disappointing that Scotland’s views have not been taken on board.”

Three bases each will be closed in Northern Ireland and Wales. Part of the Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, the UK’s largest army base, will also be sold off. Sir Michael pledged that all funds would be reinvested in defence.

“By putting money where it is needed, we will provide better facilities to train our armed forces and deliver more stability for military families,” he added in his statement.

Funding will go towards creating new regional light infantry hubs, including one in Edinburgh. Public and Commercial Services general secretary Mark Serwotka warned the closures would “throw the future into doubt for thousands of staff” and their families.

The surplus sites in Scotland earmarked for closure are as follows:

• Condor Airfield – estimated disposal 2020

• Forthside Stirling – estimated disposal 2022

• MOD Caledonia – estimated disposal 2022

• Craigiehall – estimated disposal 2018

• Redford Cavalry Barracks and Redford Infantry Barracks – estimated disposal 2022

• Fort George – estimated disposal 2032

• Glencorse Barracks – estimated disposal 2032