MoD counts its gliders to ‘massage’ Scots defence statistics
THE Ministry of Defence has been accused of using cadet training gliders to mask a decline in defence equipment based in Scotland.
A row broke out last night over the contents of a parliamentary written answer to SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson on the details of what equipment is based in Scotland.
The written answer from Liberal Democrat armed forces minister Nick Harvie appeared to suggest that the number of aircraft based in Scotland had risen from 66 to 80, despite the closure of two of the three RAF bases north of the Border.
However, for the first time it was not specified whether the aircraft were Typhoon or Tornado jets – and it later emerged that the MoD had included 13 gliders in the statistics that had previously been left out.
The aircraft included five Viking cadet gliders at Kirknewton and another five of the same model in Arbroath, as well as three Vigilant Power gliders based at Kinloss and Lossiemouth in Moray.
The figures come amid doubts that plans by the MoD to double the size of the army in Scotland will go ahead. The future of the military has become a central issue in the build-up to the independence referendum.
Yesterday, Mr Robertson, whose own party has been criticised for not laying out what the military would look like in an independent Scotland, said that the apparent attempt to use gliders to boost the number of aircraft was “beyond parody”.
He added: “That the MoD is now including gliders to massage the figures shows its embarrassment over the reduction of military equipment in Scotland and tells you everything you need to know about UK government policy.
“At a time when Scotland has already been massively short-changed on defence spending, with more than 10,500 recent defence job losses and a massive £5.6 billion underspend, the decline in Scotland’s defence footprint is continuing, despite the fact that Scottish taxpayers are contributing more than £3bn a year in taxes to the defence budget.”
However, although the figures also suggested 17 armoured vehicles had been removed from Scotland, the 17 Snatch Land Rovers had actually been reclassified. It is believed they are still in Scotland.
There was a reduction of one surface vessel from Faslane with the retirement of a minesweeper and one fewer submarine, with the retirement of Swiftsure.
The number of field artillery in Edinburgh and Arbroath was reduced by three to 16.
However, the figures showed that eight new armoured reconnaissance vehicles had been brought in to Fife and Ayr.
While the number of military helicopters remain the same at five, these are all expected to go with the end of the MoD carrying out search and rescue.
In addition, many of the 59 Tornados are set to be pulled out, with RAF Leuchars in Fife becoming an army base.
An MoD spokeswoman said: “The MoD’s footprint in Scotland is expected to grow to 20,000 service personnel and civilians by 2020. Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review we have made clear our intention to base a multi-role brigade in Scotland and our rebasing plans will lead to an increase in more than 2,000 defence posts. Our new Astute class submarines will also be based in Faslane from 2017. ”
• Aircraft numbers up by 14 – but ten are RAF Cadet gliders not counted before.
• Helicopters remain the same at five – they will retire in 2016 at the latest and will not be replaced
• One less conventional naval vessel and one less submarine at Faslane
• Field artillery down by three – this year they didn’t point out that six were ceremonial
RAF Leuchars 21 RAF Leuchars 19
RAF Lossiemouth 45 RAF Lossiemouth 48
RAF Lossiemouth 2 Prestwick 3
RAF Gannet 3 Lossiemouth 2
Faslane 5 (None)
Conventional naval vessels
HMNB Clyde 10 Faslane 9
HMNB Clyde 6 Faslane 5
Arbroath 6 Arbroath 6
Edinburgh 13 * Edinburgh 10
*6 Light guns are used for ceremonial purposes