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Local fury at plan to close all the capital's historic army bases

Communities around Edinburgh's Dreghorn and Redford barracks will be hit hard by the shock closure of the two army bases, politicians warned today.

The barracks will be shut, along with the Craigiehall army headquarters near Cramond, within the next three years, and the sites sold off.

The controversial decision was announced by Defence Secretary Liam Fox as part of his defence review, which will also see the creation of a new "super barracks" at Kirknewton, West Lothian, and an expansion of Glencorse barracks near Penicuik.

The Dreghorn and Redford closures will see hundreds of army families leave the Colinton area, where some schools are said to be up to 90 per cent populated by children of service personnel.

The Ministry of Defence said Dreghorn, which opened in 1939, and Redford, which dates back to 1909, each had around 550 personnel, with another 150 based at Craigiehall.

Kirknewton, currently the site of an RAF gliding school, is expected to house between 1000 and 2000 troops.

Mr Fox told the House of Commons the MoD had to make the most efficient use of its estate and dispose of sites which were no longer needed. He said: "The decision has therefore been taken to vacate and dispose of Craigiehall, Redford and Dreghorn barracks. We will aim to achieve these disposals by 2014-15."

One estimate suggested the three sites could raise a total of 20 million.

Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart spoke out against the closures, branding them "historic vandalism, purely for economic gain".

He said: "Just weeks after thousands of people lined the Capital's streets to celebrate Armed Forces Day, to find that Edinburgh is to be left without a single army base is, quite frankly, unbelievable.

"Closing down all the Edinburgh bases and starting from scratch at Kirknewton, which does not have any army tradition or great transport links, is difficult to understand."

He said the economic impact of the Dreghorn and Redford closures on the local community would be immense and, meanwhile, the small community of Kirknewton would have to cope with a huge new army base on its doorstep.

In the 1970s, Kirknewton was used by the army and known as Ritchie Camp. The units there included the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Edinburgh South West Labour MP Alistair Darling said there was a need to improve soldiers' accommodation, but argued if the bases were to be centralised it should have been on one of the existing sites.

He said: "Having recently visited Redford, the accommodation is woefully inadequate. We're expecting young men and women who are putting their lives at risk to live in what is Victorian accommodation, so good modern accommodation is absolutely imperative.

"That said, there are deep ties between the armed services and the communities around Dreghorn and Redford. If the service personnel are to be moved, that will have quite a profound impact not only on the community, but particularly on the schools."

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said: "The MoD's decision will put a significant hole in parts of this constituency and I will be in touch with the MoD to see what support they will be providing.

"If Edinburgh's barracks are to be sold off, it strikes me that Edinburgh should receive some of the financial benefit the MoD is planning on banking."

Deputy city leader Steve Cardownie said: "We will be convening a meeting of all parties to make sure the situation is managed as best we can."

Reaction

'We are all very enthusiastic'

IN Kirknewton the proposed new army base was welcomed by residents.

The MoD has suggested that it could host as many as 2000 troops – a figure which would almost double the local population.

Henry Watson, a barman at The Inn in Kirknewton said: "We have all been talking about it and we are all very enthusiastic.

"It will bring more jobs into the area, which is excellent, especially given the current climate. The army were here in the 1970s and did a lot for the village, there was more going on."

'It will affect the whole area'

THE closure of the Redford and Dreghorn barracks will be a major blow to the area, local residents have said.

Colinton Tory councillor Jason Rust said: "There's a great integration between the army community and the local civilian community in Colinton.

"Having the army brings a great deal of added value for community events and the area generally. I'll be monitoring the developments very closely."

Vijay Dookna, an assistant manager in a local newsagent, said: "I think it will definitely affect things and we do get trade off (the soldiers]. It will affect us and the whole community because they have been here for a long time."

 
 
 

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