SNP MP Drew Hendry has launched a scathing attack on David Mundell, branding his comments about Fort George “damaging and disrespectful”.
The former Highland Council leader urged the Scottish secretary to refrain from making “reckless” remarks about the Ministry of Defence’s estates review before a decision has been made.
MoD officials have repeatedly argued that nothing has yet been decided, signalling only that an announcement will be made “before the end of the year”.
However, in an interview with the Press and Journal last week, Mr Mundell indicated he thought Kinloss Barracks has a future, while Fort George may not.
He described the latter as a “very old facility with poor conditions” and highlighted issues in attracting service personnel.
Insisting he was not “prejudging the exercise”, he added: “In relation to Fort George, there are well known issues in relation to its capacity as a facility.
“Those are not things people would say about Kinloss.”
The article prompted Inverness MP Mr Hendry to write to Mr Mundell, expressing his disappointment at his failure to confirm the site’s retention as an army base.
He wrote: “I consider the comments both damaging to the reputation of Fort George and, given the uncertainty raised by the estates review, disrespectful to my constituents.
“A Secretary of State for Scotland briefing against Fort George is most unwelcome.
“Your comments appear to pre-empt a decision that puts Fort George very much on the chopping block.
“Therefore, as the MP for Fort George, I once again ask you to share the information you and the Scotland Office have obtained on this matter to allow you to make these kind of statements.
“If, however, as you have previously stated, you are not in possession of this information and a decision has yet to be made, I ask that you refrain from making such reckless comments on this review and to retract your assertion with regard to Fort George.”
He also urged Mr Mundell to make representations to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to secure the base’s future, claiming that closure would risk more than 750 jobs and could cost the Highland economy up to £16million.
Earlier this month, the MoD announced the closure of 13 military sites as part its £1billion cost-cutting exercise.
An MoD source told the P&J yesterday it would not be giving a running commentary on the issue.
A UK Government spokesman said: “As the Secretary of State for Scotland told the Press and Journal last week, decisions on the future of Fort George and other bases are operational decisions and that is the right approach to take.
“He also stressed he was not prejudging the review process and was very clear that his comments did not cast a shadow over the future of Fort George.”