Review puts military bases under further uncertainty

There is a rumour that the Army plans to sell the city's Dreghorn Barracks.
There is a rumour that the Army plans to sell the city's Dreghorn Barracks.
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EDINBURGH’S military bases face even more uncertainty following the latest review of the Army’s future, it was claimed today.

Plans to close both the city’s army barracks, at Dreghorn and Redford, and the headquarters site at Craigiehall were announced by the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox in July last year, along with plans for a controversial new super-barracks at Kirknewton.

But since then there have been rumours of a rethink which would see the Army sell Dreghorn, but keep Redford and Craigiehall and abandon the super-barracks plan.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond revealed the latest proposed changes to the structure of the army, including cutting the number of regular soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000, when he set out the Army 2020 plan in the Commons last week.

But there was no word of what would happen to the bases as a result.

Among the changes were a move away from the previous plans for five large “multi-role brigades”, one of which was expected to be based at the new Kirknewton super-barracks, and a downgrading of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to a company, which will be based in Edinburgh, to perform ceremonial duties.

Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart said the latest announcement raised more questions than it answered. No announcement about the bases was likely until well into next year, he said.

“We have had a year of uncertainty with bases earmarked for closure. Now it looks as if we will have to wait at least another eight months.

“The Defence Secretary said the restructuring of the British Army does not change the details of the basing review which were announced last year. But it’s clear that if you have fewer multi-role brigades, you need fewer bases for them. I hope therefore that we can finally put to bed the proposal for a super-barracks in Kirknewton and end the uncertainty.”

Mr Crockart had previously argued Craigiehall could become a combined headquarters for the brigades expected to be based as Kirknewton and Leuchars. He said even with the latest changes, it could provide the headquarters function for the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

“I have requested a meeting with the minister to discuss the future of Craigiehall, given today’s announcement.

“With a public duties company being created to return sentries to Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse on a permanent basis, it seems that an HQ with the requisite knowledge and experience will be vital to the smooth running of the company. Craigiehall and its staff have the skills and expertise to continue to provide first class support to Scotland’s Army.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The MoD is conducting a comprehensive basing review to look at all sites across the country. No changes will be made to the initial plans until that review is complete.”

He said no date had been set for the review to be finished.