Scots got good deal from bases review - Cameron

Alex Salmond and David Cameron after signing the referendum agreement in October. Picture: AP
Alex Salmond and David Cameron after signing the referendum agreement in October. Picture: AP
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PRIME Minister David Cameron has insisted Scotland got a good deal out of the basing review last week but admitted that government had gone back on a promise to double the size of the army north of the Border.

In a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Cameron also challenged the SNP to give details of what the military footprint would be like in Scotland with just seven per cent of the spending of the current UK defence budget.

He made it clear that independence would mean the “end of centuries of shared British military effort and the military footprint of this military capability in Scotland.”

His letter pointed out that Scotland has seen an increase in military personnel and defence spending to “the highest levels since 2007” at a time when the defence budget has been slashed because of the austerity measures to bring down the UK’s debt levels.

His letter said that Scotland now has one of the largest concentrations of army personnel with the adaptable brigade based around Leuchars and Edinburgh, one of the UK’s three fast jet bases at Lossiemouth in Moray, and one of the UK’s three naval bases at Faslane on the Clyde.

He suggested that independence would mean all these bases would go and he challenged the SNP to say what would come in its place.

But Mr Cameron admitted that the promises made to more than double the army to between 6,500 and 7,000 personnelmade in 2011 had been broken.

However, he went on: “The plans set out two years ago were set out on the basis of the army operating a multi-role brigade structure.

“Under Army 2020 there will be a suignificant restructuring of the military based on two key elements - reaction force brigades based at Salisbury Plain and Colchester and regionally based adaptable force brigades.”

He said that given the economic circumstances Scotland had done well in getting an increase because of the cuts that had to be made.

He said: “In 2010 we inherited a defence budget in which there was a serious mismatch between resources and commitments.”

Last week Mr Salmond accused the UK Government of having “shamefully” disregarded “clear promises to Scotland that were made less than two years ago”.

The First Minister also demanded Mr Cameron “now apologise for the breaking of those commitments to the people of Scotland”.

But Mr Cameron made it clear there would be no apology for the change of policy on army numbers in Scotland.

He said: “The defence of our country is planned, managed and organised on a UK basis to meet the needs of the UK as a whole.”

Last week defence secretary Philip Hammond said that scotland was getting more than its fair share of military personnel over all.

Echoing the point, Mr Cameron wrote: “While the location of the UK’s armed forces is decided purely on military requirements, our planned number of armed forces in Scotland will still be proportionate to Scotland’s population.”

Following the letter’s publication, Downing Street made it clear that the Prime Minister believes the Scottish Government needs to say what the military footprint qwould be for an independent Scotland.

A spokesman said: “We have yet to see credible projections, including any put forward by the Scottish Government, which would maintain a military presence in an independent Scotland on the same scale as the plans we have set out.

“People in Scotland deserve to know what military capabilities they would plan for an independent Scotland, and how these could be afforded on the proposed budget of around seven per cent of what the UK spends on defence and security.”

A spokesperson for the First Minister: “The reality is that Scotland was promised 6,000 additional forces personnel and we have ended up with just 600 more. That is a pale shadow of what was committed to by the UK Government just two years ago.

“This continues the disproportionate cuts to the defence footprint in Scotland by successive UK Governments which has now seen a fall of over a third in numbers of personnel between 2000 and 2012, compared to under a fifth UK-wide. And the plans announced by the UK Government last week leave Scotland with fewer defence personnel than Finland, Denmark or Norway.”

He went on: “We are committed to a defence budget for an independent Scotland which is around £500 million more than is currently spent on defence here by the UK Government.

“This will ensure we have first class conventional forces which meet our needs, including the retention of defence bases inherited at the point of independence – but we will save money by not spending on Trident weapons of mass destruction.”