RAF to pull out of Leuchars as RAF Lossiemouth stays

Leuchars in Fife has lost its fight to retain its RAF base, with Lossiemouth in Moray becoming Scotland's only such site.

RAF Leuchars will become an army base, with its Typhoons leaving for Lossiemouth in 2013 and the army starting to move in later.

Campaigners had been battling to keep both bases open.

Troops will also be stationed at Kinloss in Moray, which closed as an air base as part of MoD cuts.

Fort George in Inverness will remain as it is as the Black Watch base.

In Edinburgh, Craigiehall, Redford and Dreghorn barracks will all be sold and a new facility will be built at Kirknewton.

Glencourse barracks at Penicuik will see extra investment.

MoD Caledonia at Rosyth, now used by the Royal Navy, will in future be shared with the army.

After making his statement to parliament, the Secretary of State for Defence, Liam Fox, confirmed he would visit RAF Lossiemouth on Tuesday where he planned to meet station personnel and the Moray Task Force.

In his address to the House of Commons, Dr Fox said that he was conscious of the uncertainty for the armed forces and their families, but he added that most of the changes would take place after 2015.

He began his statement by saying: "This government inherited both a national economic disaster that represented a strategic threat, and a defence programme undermined by a £38bn black hole.

"Without a fundamental review for 12 years, our Armed Forces were still largely configured for the 20th Century despite a decade of sustained operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"This failure to set out a coherent long-term strategy for defence and to effectively match commitments to resources is one of Labour's worst legacies."

The key points announced by Dr Fox included;

  • Army Brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five Multi-Role Brigade (MRB)
  • The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England centred on Cottesmore and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south of Edinburgh
  • The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area which is yet to be finalised
  • Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars
  • The Typhoon force due to be at Leuchars will instead be at RAF Lossiemouth
  • Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle Barracks and eventually Arbroath, as over time the bulk of the Royal Marines will be brought together in the South West of England
  • Place Army units in Kinloss in around 2014/15

The overhaul of air bases is part of a wider review of MoD operations, which will see large reductions in troop numbers but more resources for reserve forces.

Dr Fox said the move would mean more service personnel being stationed in Scotland, and that therefore the ''defence footprint'' would "increase by well over 2,000 posts".

The defence secretary added: "The planning work, including the investment required to adapt sites, will now get under way based on this strategic direction.

"It will involve consultations as appropriate with local communities and other statutory obligations we will need to fulfil.

"I am very conscious of the uncertainties that these changes will cause for service personnel and their families.

"Let me reassure them that the majority of the moves I have announced today will take place after 2015.

"The overall package I have announced today is good news for our Armed Forces and means that they can look forward to the future with renewed confidence because the defence programme I have announced is underpinned with real resources."

Responding in parliament to Dr Fox's statement, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: "Today's announcement of a smaller army comes from a party that promised thousands of extra troops in opposition.

"It is hard to conclude anything other than that this is strategic shrinkage by stealth, because today's cut in the army is bigger than the entire current deployment of all UK forces in Afghanistan."

Image caption It has been confirmed that RAF Leuchars will close as an RAF base

The SNP said the announcement confirmed the "massive and disproportionate defence cuts to the Royal Air Force and Royal Marines in Scotland that had been feared".

The party's defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "The UK government had the opportunity to reverse more than a decade of decline in Scotland's military footprint but has instead confirmed further massive and disproportionate cuts to the RAF and Royal Marines as well as the closure of military facilities."

And the Liberal Democrats' Sir Menzies Campbell, who is MP for North East Fife, said: "I cannot support the decision not to retain Leuchars in my constituency as an RAF base because I believe it to be fundamentally wrong, strategically inept, and likely to increase the risk to our citizens."

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