Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has visited Scotland today to confirm £1.7 billion of funding for military bases.
Michael Fallon and the Defence Board are being hosted by 3rd Battalion The Rifles, currently a Light Mechanised Infantry battalion based in Edinburgh and the 51st Infantry Brigade in Edinburgh today.
The Defence Secretary said that the UK governments commitment to Scotland has been “underlined by £1.7bn investment in better Armed Forces infrastructure.”
“Scotland is on the frontline of defending the United Kingdom from growing threats at sea, in the air and on land.
Our commitment to the future of defence in Scotland is underlined by increasing investment in better infrastructure for the Armed Forces, helping to keep us safe.”
— Ministry of Defence (@DefenceHQ) February 24, 2017
This follows an announcement in November that eight military sites in Scotland will close in the next 15 years, cutting the defence estate by 20%. At the time, Fallon told the House of Commons:
“First we will transform an estate built for previous generations of war fighting to one that better supports the needs of our armed forces.
It will help deliver Joint Force 2025 by bringing people and capabilities into new centres of specialism clustering units closer to their training estate. Today based upon the advice of Chiefs of Staff I am announcing the release of a further 56 bases by 2040.”
Some of these are in Edinburgh and local area.
At the time, Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said:
“Today’s announcement is a huge blow for the country. Our defence footprint has been worn away through successive cuts, so it is unacceptable that the UK Government has announced a near 20% reduction to our defence footprint.
This comes just three years after the last Army Basing Plan, billed as offering stability and certainty.”
Leuchars Station, formerly an RAF airfield, is be expanded to become ‘the main hub for Army activity in Scotland’.
According to the Ministry of Defence, Scotland currently has 14,000 military regular and reserve personnel and 3,930 MoD civilian staff. There are also over 11,000 industry jobs supported by various shipbuilding efforts in Scotland.
The £1.7bn includes £1.3bn for upgrades at Faslane and £400 million for a new runway and related facilities at RAF Lossiemouth which will host the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft fleet and an additional typhoon squadron.
Faslane itself is the second biggest single-site employer in Scotland, after the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow which employs around 11,000 staff.
Direct employment at the base is currently around 6,500 with many more thousands dependent on the base for jobs through the supply chain. It is understood that around 11,000 are directly and indirectly reliant on the base.
All 11 Royal Navy submarines will be based on the Clyde at Faslane from 2020, seeing the number of people directly employed at the base rising to 8,200.
The visit however has been criticised by the Scottish National Party. MSP Gordon MacDonald said:
“Only months after Michael Fallon announced drastic cuts of £140m to defence in Scotland” the Defence Secretary was treating military bases facing closure like a visitor centre.”
In November 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced to the UK parliament that the RAF would be purchasing nine new Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The aircraft and 400 extra personnel are to be based at Lossiemouth and at least three aircraft would be operational by April 2020.
At the Farnborough Air Show in July 2016 the Ministry of Defence and Boeing confirmed the a deal had been agreed and that they intend to work together to build a new £100m P-8A operational support and training base at Lossiemouth, creating more than 100 new jobs.
Additionally, Michael Fallon announced at the Scottish Conservative Conference in March 2016 that Lossiemouth was a preferred option to accommodate an additional Typhoon squadron and 400 personnel.