Scotsman: 'Backlash over MOD super-barracks plan'

Today's Scotsman leads with claims by former officers that the Ministry of Defence decision to move the army out of Edinburgh and sell off its historic buildings is financially driven, unpopular and gives the impression of "chaos at the top". BAFF comment: The availability of land for a new major training area is likely to be a major element in this decision, but the needs of personnel and their families also need be taken into account. The Scotsman story continues:

Lieutenant-Colonel Allister Thom told The Scotsman the move made no sense. "I am amazed that the MoD should contemplate giving up excellent facilities at Dreghorn and banish our soldiers and their families to a lonely spot some 12-and-a- half miles from the city," he said.

His intervention was supported by politicians across the board, who said the plan to leave Edinburgh for a new "super barracks" in West Lothian is based on cost rather than military strategy. One MSP is now considering a campaign to convince the MoD to reverse the decision.

The criticism intensified yesterday as it emerged senior officers in Scotland were not consulted and were "stunned" when they were told.

Last night, one serving officer said: "There is a lot of unhappiness about this. The barracks in Edinburgh are so much more convenient for everyone and particularly those with families, as they are close to schools and shops.

"Kirknewton is an old RAF base, and there's not a lot there. It will all have to be built up from scratch and even then it's a long way out from the city centre. People just don't fancy living out there, and if families are not happy, soldiers serving abroad are not happy."

The proposal was unveiled by Defence Secretary Liam Fox last month as part of the MoD's military bases review.

Criticism has centred on the choice of the old glider airfield at Kirknewton on the edge of West Lothian as a location which senior military figures argue does not have the infrastructure to cope with hundreds of soldiers and families.

It is estimated the new headquarters could cost up to £400 million to build and there are doubts whether this is a good use of money at a time when the MoD has been forced to make £38 billion of cuts, including 11,000 redundancies among military personnel.

The barracks at Dreghorn are said to be very well equipped with sports facilities. Both Dreghorn and Redford barracks are close to training areas. ...

MoD response

... Last night, the MoD insisted that the controversial proposal would go ahead and was in the best interests of the army.

A spokeswoman said: "Senior officers were involved in the consultation stage in looking at different options. Of course, they only knew of the final decision on the day of the announcement, because decisions announced on the Monday were only finalised over the weekend."

She added: "This is about what is best for the army in the 21st century. The question people have to ask is whether they think it is right for the army to remain in old, out-of-date buildings, or be given state-of-the-art modern facilities to live and work in."

She added: "Much of the criticism is coming from people concerned about the impact on Edinburgh and from former officers. They really need to think about what is best for those who are now serving their country."

Scotland

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