Army barrack closure plan ‘still lacks economic case’

Dreghorn barracks is to be sold off and a new site built at Kirknewton
Dreghorn barracks is to be sold off and a new site built at Kirknewton
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TWO months after announcing that Edinburgh’s three historic army bases are to close, the UK Government has still not produced a convincing economic case for the move, it was claimed today.

Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart has tabled more than 50 parliamentary questions on the plans to shut Redford and Dreghorn barracks, along with the Craigiehall army headquarters near Cramond, and create a new “super barracks” at Kirknewton.

But he said the answers he received just underlined the lack of detailed information on the cost of the plans, how they would be implemented or what benefits they would bring.

Launching his campaign for a rethink on the decision, Mr Crockart said if the Ministry of Defence could not show the proposals were going to be cost effective, the closures should be put on hold until fuller information was available.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced the closures as part of his defence review on July 18. He said the Redford, Dreghorn and Craigiehall sites would be sold off and an airfield at Kirknewton would become a new barracks for up to 2000 soldiers.

Mr Crockart said at the time the closure plans were “historic vandalism, purely for economic gain”.

In the following weeks, he lodged questions at Westminster in a bid to find out the cost of the new barracks, what assessment had been made of the impact of the closures and what valuations had been done on the Edinburgh bases.

He said: “After two months and 50 parliamentary questions, with no answers giving details of likely costs nor possible capital receipts from disposal of the Edinburgh estate, the financial case for the closures and construction of a super barracks is no clearer.

“If there is no clear financial case then the government should delay the closures and review the decision at a time when figures are available.

“It is unacceptable to put to waste Edinburgh’s army estate and the city’s historic link with the army when a case cannot be made for significant savings.”

The plans have been branded “ludicrous” by retired colonel Clive Fairweather, who held a number of senior posts in the army in Scotland. He said: “You cannot escape the conclusion that it is more about trying to make a quick buck out of Edinburgh property.”

The MoD has argued that while there is a sentimental attachment to the Dreghorn and Redford barracks, they are no longer really fit for purpose for a modern army, whereas the new base at Kirknewton will be purpose-built and up to modern standards.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com