Campaigners have vowed to “safeguard and develop” the military presence in Moray amid speculation about the future of Kinloss Barracks.
The Army base employs about 1,000 military and civilian personnel while contributing more than £28million to the local economy every year.
However, the future of Kinloss Barracks is reported to be in doubt as part of a Ministry of Defence spending review.
An emergency meeting of Moray Economic Partnership has committed the group to working to champion the social and economic importance of the base.
Is there a case for more troops at Kinloss Barracks?
When the closure of nearby Fort George was confirmed in 2016, it was hoped those troops or others would move to Kinloss Barracks in the future.
However, while the closing date of the base near Inverness is reported to under consideration for being brought forward from 2032 – Kinloss could also be shut.
The Army has stressed its plans for structural reform is not yet finalised while describing speculation as “unhelpful and misleading” with clarity not expected until next month.
Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter, who is chairman of Moray Economic Partnership, stressed there was a “strong and enduring connection” between the military and the region.
He said: “Clearly the speculation about the future of Kinloss Barracks is unsettling for both the base personnel and the wider community, and it’s important that we re-emphasise the strong bond and mutual benefit that exists ahead of any decisions on future defence infrastructure in the coming weeks.
“It is incumbent upon us as community representatives to express our support for the regiment and highlight the many positives that Moray provides to our military partners.”
Pearl Hamilton, the Federation of Small Business’ national councillor for Scotland, said: “As a local business owner in Forres, we welcomed the army service members and their dependents to Moray and continue to see the significant community and economic benefit.
“We are hopeful they will remain and may even add to the present contingent.”
‘Community representatives standing together’
The future of the military in Kinloss has long been threatened.
When the base was operated by the RAF there was a campaign to keep it open at the time the Nimrod fleet was scrapped.
Those attempts were partially successful, when the MoD confirmed the Army’s 39 Engineer Regiment would move in when the RAF left in 2012 with a smaller personnel-complement.
The base was spared in 2016 when it was confirmed Fort George would close, despite rumours Kinloss was also facing the axe.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “It’s heartening to see community representatives standing together to highlight the case for retaining the Kinloss Barracks.
“The importance of the issue is demonstrated by the decision of the Moray Economic Partnership to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issue. I stand ready to support the community’s efforts to safeguard the future of the barracks.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “This meeting of the Moray Economic Partnership reiterated the strong local support for Kinloss Barracks and the vital role they play in our community.
“Currently all the concerns are based on speculation but I will continue to do all I can as the local MP to ensure Kinloss Barracks has a long and positive future in the area.”