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Sunday 20th May 2012 | 09:59
The UK Government will be pressed for a clear answer on the future of capabilities as well as regimental cap badges this week after the SNP secured a debate in Westminster on the future of Scottish recruited units.
The demand comes as the SNP publish official figures which suggests that the MoD is in the process of the biggest defence asset sell-off since demobilisation after the Second World War. In just three years they have sold-off or junked in excess of £17bn on land, property and equipment – including vital capabilities such as the Nimrod maritime reconnaissance fleet.
After refusing to rule-out the further amalgamation and disbandment of Scottish raised units when pressed in parliament last week, the MoD made an apparent about-turn over proposals to abolish Scotland’s historic regimental names and cap badges.
The SNP has repeatedly raised concerns over the decline in Scotland’s defence footprint with official figures from the MoD, just this week, revealing that the level of military personnel based in Scotland is at its lowest in memory.
SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“We must have clear unequivocal answers from the MoD over the future of the UK Governments commitment to a defence footprint in Scotland – that means capabilities as well as cap badges.
“The MoD appears to be in the process of a massive fire sale, perhaps the biggest sell-off since demobilisation after the Second World War. In just three years they have sold-off or junked in excess of £17bn on land, property and equipment.
“We need to look very closely at this disposal because the stated value of the assets does not mean that the MoD has actually recovered that amount of money – that was just what it was worth. We need further clarity from the Defence Secretary on these details.
“The scrapped Nimrod programme is the ultimate example – at least £3.8bn wasted on one project alone. But it is not just assets that we are losing, but operational capabilities as well. Without Nimrod we now have very limited maritime reconnaissance capabilities.
“The MoD’s capabilities and footprint are quickly shrinking, and no more so than in Scotland where there has been more than 11,000 defence job losses and a mammoth £5.6bn defence underspend over the last decade.”
SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire Pete Wishart, who has sponsored Wednesday’s Westminster debate on the future of Scottish recruited units, said:
“Given the disproportionate personnel cuts and the defence underspend that Scotland has already endured, this is just as much an issue about boots on the ground as it is about traditions and identity.
“As the MoD have just confirmed, less than 3 per cent of regular army units are now stationed in Scotland – that is just 4 of 148 major regular army units.
“The UK Government is creating enormous uncertainty for our defence communities and Philip Hammond must come to parliament and make clear what his intentions are.
“After promising to reinstate Scotland’s historic regiments the Tories are now running down our armed forces even more.
“In contrast to the need for a well funded conventional defence presence in Scotland, the reality is completely the opposite. For over a decade Scotland has been short changed, losing more than 11,000 defence jobs and enduring a £5.6billion underspend.”