Army bases: Fewer than expected troops to return to Scotland

Members of the Royal Scots parade through Edinburgh City Centre
Image caption Fewer than expected troops are to return to Scotland

The number of Army personnel based in Scotland is to increase by more than 600, the defence secretary has said.

Philip Hammond told MPs that the Craigiehall Camp near Edinburgh would close and Kirknewton would not now be developed as an Army barracks, but Dreghorn Barracks would remain.

Mr Hammond has been outlining where troops withdrawing from Germany will be re-housed in the UK.

Opposition parties said the minister had failed on his troop numbers pledge.

The coalition government had said in 2011 that up to 7,000 personnel would return to Scotland.

Some 16,000 troops and their families will be moved back to the UK over the next five years.

The reorganisation will cost about £2bn and it will see some UK bases expanded, while others will close.

Both Labour and the SNP attacked Mr Hammond's statement.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said the decision to base fewer staff at Leuchars than had been previously been planned would have a political cost.

He added: "Today the government has reneged on its promise. While there is positive news about the return of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Marines staying in Arbroath, a pledge of thousands of troops to Scotland has become a plan for just hundreds. This is a body blow to Scotland and won't be forgotten.

"Defence in Scotland faces a double danger from government. Neither the Tory government's cuts or Nationalists' plans for independence will do any good for Scottish defence employment, prowess or capability."

The SNP also accused Mr Hammond of breaking promises over the number of Army personal to be based north of the border.

Its defence spokesman Angus Robertson said there would now be fewer troops in Scotland than under plans for independence.

He added:"We welcome the return of our troops from Germany and praise their service and professionalism as well as thanking all those communities in Germany who were so generous in their hosting, but today the Westminster government has u-turned in a most spectacular way.

"It has betrayed communities who were told one thing just two years ago and now find that the MoD has broken its promises.

"The previous Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the return of army personnel was intended to help offset the loss of jobs at RAF bases and increase the defence footprint in Scotland. Today that has all gone up in a cloud of smoke."

'Deep commitment'

Former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ming Campbell, whose constituency includes the Leuchars base, accused the government of basing its decisions on political rather than security concerns.

But fellow Lib Dem and Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, said the UK government's plan reflected the reality of the changing shape of the Army.

He added: "We are seeing £100m of investment in military infrastructure and hundreds of additional soldiers coming to Scottish Army bases, bringing the total number to 4,000.

"It shows a deep commitment to Scotland as an integral part of our country's defence and should be welcomed."

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