A SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT minister has spoken out over continuing worries of Moray and Highlands residents and businesses over the future of their local Army barracks.
A meeting was held on Monday between Veterans minister Keith Brown and representatives from local authorities.
Following that Mr Brown highlighted the close bonds between the military and communities around Fort George and Kinloss – saying that the Moray Economic Partnership and the Highland Council were “rightly concerned” over the risk posed by the MoD’s plans.
Mr Brown said: “I find it wholly unacceptable that Mr Lancaster (Minister of State at the MoD) has been unable to find the time to meet with me to discuss the MoD’s latest basing review, despite repeated efforts by my office to arrange the meeting.
“I’ve not even been sent basic information about the Scottish sites or unit moves that are being considered in the review. It is disappointing too that some Local Authorities and the Moray Economic Partnership have had meeting requests turned down.
“I have written again today to press for a meeting urgently. This is of vital importance to local communities in Scotland. Mr Lancaster’s refusal to meet is a worrying signal that Scottish interests are not considered to be a priority.”
The minister added that the Scottish Government was “firmly opposed” to further cuts in defence establishments just three years after the last Basing Plan, which, he said, was billed as offering stability and certainty.
He added: “I find it astonishing that the MoD would contemplate the possible closures of the Kinloss and Fort George bases. Scotland’s defence footprint has already been diminished through successive rounds of MoD cuts, to say nothing of the far-reaching economic and social impacts such a move would have on local communities.
“Fort George is an historic property operated jointly by the Army and Historic Environment Scotland so Scottish Ministers have a direct interest in the future of the site and wider economic interests in the area. We must be consulted about any options the MOD are considering before decisions are taken.
“I am therefore calling on the MoD to clarify their plans immediately to remove the uncertainty over the future of these sites and guarantee there will be no reduction to Scotland’s defence footprint.”