Edinburgh loses army unit given freedom of the city

Army Reservists take part in intensive training. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Army Reservists take part in intensive training. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The 3rd Battalion the Rifles which has called Edinburgh home for over a decade will be uprooted to England, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The decision means the Lothians, currently home to three army battalions, could be left with just one unit in 2022 until another battalion is garrisoned at 3 Rifles’ Dreghorn Barracks HQ.

The battalion has been based near Colinton in south Edinburgh since 2003, and became the only English army unit to receive the freedom of the city after seeing action in multiple tours to Afghanistan.

The announcement follows a double blow for Edinburgh last month when it was revealed two other military bases, Redford Infantry and Cavalry Barracks and Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, will be sold off by 2032 in a UK-wide defence overhaul.

Across Scotland, eight military bases including historic Fort George in the Highlands will be shut, with land in Edinburgh set to be used for housing development.

Redford, currently home to 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, is expected to close in the same year that the 3rd Rifles leave Edinburgh for their new base at Catterick, in Yorkshire.

An MoD spokeswoman said a new unit would be based at Dreghorn and that personnel numbers in Scotland would be kept level at 4000. 3 Rifles traditionally recruits most of its members from Yorkshire and northeast England.

It lost 14 men in a single deployment in 2010.

Scottish Government veterans minister Keith Brown paid tribute to 3 Rifles, saying they were a “great asset to the community, and we are sorry to see them go.”

Mr Brown said: “This is a substantial unit of around 650 personnel and I call on the MoD to replace them with a unit of at least the same size.

“This latest announcement comes a matter of weeks after MOD announced plans to cut 20 per cent of bases in Scotland, including Fort George and Glencorse.

“There is also unsettling news on the future of two Edinburgh-based Reserves units (HQ 106 Battalion REME and Edinburgh Field Squadron) which will be amalgamated with 102 Battalion in Grangemouth, Fife. I will be requesting an urgent meeting with the MOD to seek clarity on the implications for these personnel and for communities in Edinburgh and Fife.”

Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon said the government’s reorganisation of the military “would provide an increased contribution to countering terrorism and building stability overseas”.