Penicuik residents ‘stunned and devastated’ by plans to close barracks

George Leadbetter  with a picture of his dad James Leadbetter, a veteran of the First World War. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
George Leadbetter with a picture of his dad James Leadbetter, a veteran of the First World War. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
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IT BOASTS a long and illustrious military history stretching back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

And for more than 150 years Glencorse has been an integral part of the town’s heritage and community.

Glencorse Army Barracks in Penicuik. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Glencorse Army Barracks in Penicuik. Picture: Ian Georgeson

But yesterday’s shock announcement that hundreds of army families will be uprooted under a massive Ministry of Defence shake-up has drawn strong criticism from residents and politicians who have accused the UK Government of ripping the heart out of their community.

Edinburgh’s Redford and Craigiehall barracks are also due to be sold off – alongside MoD Caledonia in Rosyth – but it is in Penicuik that residents say the blow will be felt most keenly.

Many of the town’s traders, who rely heavily on serving personnel, predicted that the closure would damage business.

There was also anger that the move comes just over a decade after the barracks was given a £60 million revamp which included en-suite bedrooms with double beds, satellite TV, broadband and phone access in every room.

The timing of the announcement has also provoked fierce criticism, coming as it did in the week used to remember the sacrifices made by serving personnel in two World Wars.

Among those expressing concern was George Leadbetter who undertook part of his training at Glencorse, as did his late father, First World War veteran James Leadbetter.

The 84-year-old, who saw action in Malaya serving with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), said: “I trained at Glencorse in the 50s.

“My father also trained there and served in the First World War. I really couldn’t tell you much about his experiences. He never talked about the war.

“I don’t think closing it is a good idea. People are employed there and it brings money into the area. I feel it’s a shame.”

Anne Robertson, 70, who lives in the town, said: “I think what they are doing is dreadful and I am totally opposed to the move, particularly after all the money they have thrown at it.

“The barracks are part of the history of the town going back years and years. A lot of soldiers came here during the [Second World] War.

“I have discussed this with a relative who met one of his best friends at these barracks during the war. And a lot of friendships have been formed through that place. This is a sad day.”

Christine Grahame MSP said: “The closure of the barracks at Glencorse, home to the Royal Highland Fusiliers, is a devastating blow for our community in Penicuik, and will have an incredibly damaging impact on the local economy.

“This betrayal of Penicuik from the UK government proves the complete and utter disregard that the Tories have for protecting jobs and communities in Scotland. Not only will we lose countless jobs at the Glencorse Barracks, but the local economy will also suffer from the decline in population that helps to keep our shops, pubs and cafes thriving.

“That the Tories would rather spend hundreds of billions of pounds on the obsolete Trident nuclear weapons rather than maintaining the conventional defence forces across Scotland, including at Glencorse, is an act of betrayal beyond comprehension.

“I have lodged a parliamentary motion condemning the closure and understand my colleagues at Midlothian Council are also tabling a motion.”

The motion raises concern over the closure of eight out of 22 military sites in Scotland. It also notes that there was “no consultation over this closure” which will have “serious consequences for the local economy”.

Finally, it calls on the UK government to rescind its “callous” decision made in the very week the nation remembers its servicemen and women.

Councillor Catherine Johnstone, leader of Midlothian Council, said: “The local community are going to be faced with economic uncertainty as the Glencorse base winds down. Trident renewal is veering out of any financial control and conventional defence spending is plundered because of the Tories’ utter incompetence and communities all round Scotland are now paying for it.

“Once again the promises given by Tory politicians about defence in Scotland before the independence referendum ring hollow.

“These cuts prove beyond any doubt that the Tory UK government cannot be trusted with the defence of Scotland.”

Bruce Brown, owner of Motavation Car Parts and Accessories, predicted the closure would affect businesses.

He said: “Quite a lot of army personnel come in here to get their bicycles serviced or for spare parts. It will definitely have an effect on the Tesco and it will have a fairly substantial impact on the businesses. We will be losing a fair old chunk of the population. This won’t shut us down but it will certainly have a negative effect.”

One Penicuik resident described the closure as a “big shame” and a “shock”, adding: “The town’s businesses are already struggling enough as it is.”

But resident Andrew MacLean, 72, a former bus driver from Penicuik, was sceptical that the MoD would go through with the closure.

“It’s a 15-year period they are talking about, and I don’t think it will happen. The barracks are here to stop. I have stayed in the area all my life. The barracks have always been there.”

The Glencorse barracks can house about 400 single soldiers and 151 families but many other families live in houses in the surrounding areas.

Redford, Craigiehall and Glencorse are home to around 880 service personnel and civilians.