the announcement when it came was far more brutal than anyone had expected.
The closure of Fort George in the Highlands had been widely trailed, but the extent of the MoD’s cuts in Scotland and their impact on Edinburgh, Midlothian and Fife, in particular, were a bolt from the blue. It must have been a painful duty for Major General Alastair Dickinson, the director of army basing and infrastructure, as he broke the news to a press conference at Dreghorn Barracks, just days before Remembrance Sunday.
The complete closure of both the cavalry and infantry barracks at Redford, confirmation that Craigiehall will go, and the symbolic demise of MoD Caledonia at Rosyth, ending the Navy’s historic presence in Fife, were bad enough. But it is the decision to shut Glencorse, home to the army for almost 150 years, which will have the biggest impact on its local community. The barracks plays a huge role in supporting the local economy in Penicuik and losing the custom of the army will be a significant blow to many employers.
The fact that it is 16 years before Glencorse is expected to be sold offers a ray of hope.
If a year is a long time in politics, then more than a decade and a half is an eternity in Scottish politics. Much may change before then which could affect this decision. It also means that there is plenty of time, assuming the worst comes to the worst, to draw up plans to mitigate the impact it will have on the surrounding communities.
The same could be said, although to a lesser extent, of the proposed 2022 closure of the enormous barracks at Redford. Some of the troops currently based there are expected to make the short move to Dreghorn which will soften the impact in that part of the city.
But these cuts will be painful. The big challenge now for the local authorities and governments at Westminster and Holyrood is to mitigate that as much as possible.