Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Scotland could benefit from Strategic Defence Review

Report on Defence Secretary Liam Fox's evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday. This dispatch didn't make it into a print version.

Scotland will end up with more defence spending, more defence jobs and more military personnel than many other parts of the UK in the next few years, according to senior government sources.

Plans to move the British Army divisions from bases in Germany, spending on Trident’s Faslane and on new warship contracts will give Scotland a major military role in the UK.

The claim, by senior Minister of Defence figures, was made on the day Defence Secretary Liam Fox insisted that he wanted to maintain a strong military "footprint" in Scotland, amid continuing speculation over the future of two key air bases.

The future of RAF Leuchars in Fife and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, along with RAF Marham in Norfolk, will be decided next month when the Ministry of Defence announces the outcome of its basing review.

Giving evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, Dr Fox said that no final decisions had been made on the future of Lossiemouth or Leuchars, both earmarked for closure under the defence review.

Responding to claims by the SNP MP Elidh Whiteford that Scotland does not get a fair share of UK spending on defence Fox said strategic defence budgets were not decided "according to some ethnic ledger".

The Scottish-born Defence Secretary admitted that over the past decade, the military forces stationed in Scotland had fallen more sharply than across the UK as a whole.

He said: "I am aware of the fact that, between 2000 and 2010, the total reduction was 11.6% but the reduction in Scotland was 27.9%, so over the decade there were bigger reductions made in personnel as a proportion than in other parts of the UK."

But he stressed that the MoD would continue to need significant basing capacity in the UK to house the thousands of British troops returning from bases in Germany.

Fox said: "With some 17,000 leaving the armed forces and some 20,000 coming back from Germany that doesn’t leave a great deal of room for actually reducing capacity for accommodation. So it is a question of how we use the bases in the review," he said.

"I have a very strong view that we need to maintain a strong footprint of the UK’s defence assets across the whole of the United Kingdom. It is one of the things that we will take into account."

Dr Fox said he had not had any discussions with First Minister on the future of the military bases in Scotland, including the Trident nuclear deterrent, which Salmond has declared would be removed from an independent Scotland.

Ian Davidson, the Labour chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said uncertainty over an independence referendum was causing concern in the shipbuilding industry.

Davidson said that trade unions in his Glasgow constituency had expressed concern about the future of work at Scottish yards.

Fox replied that the MoD would continue to award contracts to Scottish defence suppliers , although he warned that the "uncertainty" over the country’s future was not helpful to industry.

"Uncertainty is not good for long-term investment," he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment