A UK defence minister was today accused of showing “disdain” for Scotland over military base closures after he said he was having consultations about the future of Redford barracks – with Fife Council.
The blunder by Mark Lancaster, Minister for Veterans, Reserves and Personnel, came in a letter to Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald, who had written to the Ministry of Defence voicing concern about the closure plan for the cavalry and infantry barracks in Colinton.
Mr Lancaster claimed in the letter that releasing MoD sites provided opportunities for commercial use, resulting in regeneration, business growth and job creation.
And he added: “My officials have been in contact with the chief executive of Fife Council to consider the best possible future uses for the site.”
Today Mr MacDonald said: “The Tory answer to closing down Edinburgh’s historic Redford barracks? Write to a council in Fife. You couldn’t make it up!
“This is Westminster disdain for Scotland at its very worst, showing a complete disregard for jobs and communities in the south west of Edinburgh which depend on the base.
“Mark Lancaster owes my constituents an apology and should start answering the serious questions about why Scotland is bearing the brunt of brutal defence cuts.”
In his letter to Mr Lancaster just before Christmas, Mr MacDonald argued other closures left Redford as the “obvious choice” for the Scottish Army HQ, rather than selling it to a private developer.
“Indeed the basing review published in 2013 suggested the Headquarters 51st Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Scotland would be based at Redford – why the change now?”
He added: “For the communities and service personnel affected this has been a devastating announcement, decided with little consultation.
“The announcement went far beyond many people’s worst expectations and my constituents are deeply concerned.”
But Mr Lancaster’s reply said the MoD had had to make some difficult decisions.
He continued: “Much of the aging defence estate is inefficient and in the wrong locations for the military capabilities it supports.
“We do not under-estimate the impact of this major transformation of the estate and recognise the impact of the changes will be felt by both defence personnel and the local communities which they have become part of in Colinton and across the UK.”
Fife Council said it had received a letter from Mr Lancaster. But a spokeswoman said: “It does not refer in any way to Redford barracks.”
An MoD spokesman said the reference to Fife Council in the letter to Mr MacDonald had been a mistake.
“This was an administrative error and we apologise for any confusion caused.
“We wrote to the City of Edinburgh Council about the intention to close Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in November and have also met council representatives.”