NEW fears have been raised about the future of Edinburgh’s Redford and Dreghorn barracks as the Ministry of Defence draws up plans to sell off property in its latest round of cost-cutting.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon sparked the concern with a speech hailing savings already made by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster, but warning the job was “far from over”.
He said the government has to keep “sweating our buildings and land”.
Four years ago, both Dreghorn and Redford barracks were earmarked for closure as part of a shake-up proposed by the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox, which also included controversial plans to build a “super-barracks” for up to 2000 soldiers at Kirknewton.
In 2013, his successor Philip Hammond reprieved the two city barracks and cancelled the Kirknewton project, though he announced the 600-strong 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland – otherwise known as the Royal Scots Borderers – would leave Dreghorn and move to Northern Ireland, while 3rd Battalion The Rifles would switch from Redford to Dreghorn.
In a speech to the Institute for Government, Mr Fallon said Britain needed to go further in “rationalising our defence estate”.
He said: “The job’s far from over.
“With continuing demands on our resources, with the cost of manpower and equipment rising, and with competition from emerging nations increasing, efficiency in defence cannot be a one-off.”
Signalling a large-scale sale of sites, he continued: “As in any big organisation, MoD must not merely be match-fit, it must be permanently fit. Every year we should be looking to take out unnecessary cost, to improve productivity, and to sweat our buildings and land so we can better support the front line.”
SNP defence spokesman and Westminster leader Angus Robertson said Mr Fallon’s speech had left a question mark over bases in Scotland.
He said: “The MoD is gearing up for another round of defence cuts and further withdrawals from Scotland.
“If there is to be a Westminster fire sale of barracks and bases, the communities to be hit will want to know before the election.”
He said the Tories promised a “super barracks” and an increase in service personnel in Scotland, “neither of which materialised”.
He added: “Instead, we have an historic low in serving personnel, and had cuts to bases, historic military units and key capabilities, as well as severe pressures on military families.”
Labour’s shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker welcomed the release of assets, but said ministers have repeatedly missed their own targets on estate disposal.
An MoD spokesman confirmed that property “across the UK” will be considered for sale.
Dreghorn, opened in 1939, and Redford, dates back to 1909.