Battle to save Fort George from the axe reignited at Holyrood

The battle to save the 250-year-old Fort George garrison from the axe has been re-ignited at Holyrood.

SNP and Labour MSPs went head-to-head with Tory colleagues yesterday who defended the planned closures, ahead of a fresh campaign push.

This includes the 6,000-signature Fight for Fort George campaign petition led by the Press and Journal.

Fierce exchanges in the Scottish Parliament led to Infrastructure Minister Keith Brown accusing Conservatives of dripping contempt for Highlands communities.

Mr Brown said: “These are perhaps the most far-reaching defence cuts Scotland has ever seen.

“I can’t think why there’s not a single Conservative MSP who will oppose a single closure when their colleagues south of the border will.

“We now know the Conservative view of these bases and their importance, described as a heritage tour, which is just dripping contempt for these communities.”

Defence chiefs provoked fury in November by confirming plans to withdraw the Army from the 250-year-old garrison near Ardersier, with the Black Watch battalion to move to a new barracks.

But Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw defended the planned base closures, which he said were necessary for modernisation.

He said: “Our defence estate needs to be rationalised because it is financially unsustainable.

“It’s absolutely imperative we meet the defence needs of today – there’s no point having some sort of imaginary sense of what was appropriate in a different era.

“We must have a defence force equipped to face threats in the future.”

But Highlands MSP Maree Todd, SNP, said the excuse of efficiency savings didn’t hold water.

She said: “It’s impossible to say how the military can maintain a footprint across the whole of the UK by entirely removing the army from the Highlands.

“There’s no evidence closing Fort George will save any money.

“These cuts raise serious questions about the priorities of the UK Government, which can afford to renew Trident but is intent on selling off bases across the country at the price of a heavily irresponsible nuclear deterrent the people don’t want.”