Scotland politics

SNP claims MoD 'set to go back' on Scotland defence pledges

Soldiers from Royal Regiment of Scotland
Image caption British soldiers are expected to be housed at Scotland's two recently-closed RAF bases

The SNP has claimed the Ministry of Defence could be set to go back on key defence commitments to Scotland.

The UK government said in 2011 that up to 7,000 personnel would return to Scotland from Germany, with barracks and a training area being built.

Nationalists said it would be "unacceptable" if this pledge were to change when an announcement is made in the Commons this week.

The MoD said the speculation was "unfounded".

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to outline to MPs the government's plans for the return of service personnel from Germany and future basing arrangements across the UK

In 2011, Mr Hammond's predecessor, Liam Fox, said that between 6,500 and 7,000 personnel would return to Scotland and be part of a new multi-role brigade.

'Disproportionate cuts'

New barracks would be built at Kirknewton in West Lothian and a new training area would be established in the Borders.

The move was partially to make up for the closure of the RAF bases at Leuchars in Fife and Kinloss in Moray, which were both to become Army bases instead.

However, the SNP said it believed that Mr Hammond's imminent basing announcement would confirm that the coalition government will go back on many of these commitments.

The party's defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, said: "This would be totally unacceptable and underlines why better defence decisions should be made in Scotland with independence.

"Less than two years have passed since promises were made to the Westminster parliament that: up to 7,000 personnel will return to Scotland, there would be new barracks for them as well as a new training area.

"These promises were being made to partially make good on recent disproportionate cuts to personnel, spending and basing in Scotland.

"Even the MoD has acknowledged that Scotland has suffered personnel cuts nearly three times the UK average.

"Two out of three airbases are seeing the end of air operations and, instead of appropriate conventional naval forces at Faslane, we have nuclear armed submarines.

"According to the MoD's own statistics, the difference between what Scottish taxpayers contribute to the MoD and what is actually spent here has gone up to a mammoth £7.4bn over recent years.

'New investment'

"I don't believe that a sovereign Scottish government of any mainstream hue would manage defence so badly in Scotland."

However, an MoD source said Mr Hammond was likely to announce that Scotland was going to receive "new investment in accommodation and facilities" as part of the Army's new basing plan.

"It has also consistently been speculated that the numbers of soldiers in Scotland is going to decrease," he added. "However, the defence secretary is also due to set out that this speculation is unfounded.

"Scotland will actually get a modest increase in its Army headcount, of nearly 20%, with some units returning from Germany to the improved Leuchars base.

"The new basing plan will clarify for the first time the Army's future permanent UK locations as the Army is brought back from Germany.

"It will make the best use of the defence estate and provide better accommodation and facilities for our troops and their families.

"The new basing plan brings certainty and security to our armed forces and to Scotland.

"It will give the UK economy a £1.8bn boost, with Scotland receiving a share of this investment to spend on new and improved accommodation and facilities for its soldiers and their families."

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