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Fears Fort George and Kinloss Barracks could be closed early as part of defence cuts

Ben Wallace with Black Watch soldiers at Fort George.

The future of Scotland’s historic Army barracks has again been thrown into doubt, following suggestion a planned closure date could be brought forward as part of a UK Government spending review.

The Army will face cuts to its numbers nationwide as part of Ministry of Defence plans to modernise the country’s armed forces.

The Defence in a Competitive Age review, which was released in the Spring, committed to cutting the size of the army from its current number of 77,820 soldiers to 72,500.

As many as 1,700 Scottish soldiers could be cut from the army as three of the country’s seven garrisons face the axe.

Any plans to advance closures of barracks, which are understood to include Fort George, Kinloss and Redford, would go down “like a lead” balloon with Scottish Conservatives, a party source said, in the latest indication the country’s members were not in complete lockstep with their UK counterparts.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has previously voiced opposition to the closing of the Kinloss Royal Engineers barracks in his Moray constituency.

He is also expected to defy UK Government plans to redraw his constituency “out of existence” under proposed boundary reviews.

The SNP called the continuing “looming threat of closures” placed on Scotland’s communities “a disgrace”.

Recruitment ‘crisis’

We reported earlier this year the Royal Regiment of Scotland was facing a “recruitment crisis”, with statistics showing the regiment is under strength by almost a quarter.

Freedom parade for The Black Watch 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots) in Forfar, passing through West High Street beside the Town & County Hall.

The Regiment was 489 troops short of its 2,059 personnel “requirement” in 2020, figures show, among the largest in the British Army when compared against current targets.

Garrison futures unknown

As reported in The Sunday Times, Army bosses want to bring forward the closing dates for Fort George near Inverness, home to The Black Watch, and the Glencorse and Redford barracks in Edinburgh.

Both are scheduled for closure by 2032.

Royal Engineers based at Kinloss are thought to be relocated to England.

A recommendation is expected to be given to government ministers by the end of the autumn, the Ministry of Defence said, with a final decision to be returned by the end of the year.

When asked on the future of Fort George and Kinloss barracks, an Army spokesperson said the decision on structural reform was still “to be finalised”.

SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, Gordon Macdonald, said: “The looming threat of these closures and cuts has been going on for years and, quite frankly, it’s a disgrace.

“In all that time, the UK Government has shown no regard for the job losses, the economic damage or the uncertainty they are creating for the communities – like those at Redford Barracks in my constituency and even those in Douglas Ross’s own constituency.

Gordon MacDonald MSP
Gordon MacDonald MSP

“The MoD need to open their eyes to the devastating reality of what these closures will mean and reverse their unjustified, poorly thought out plans.

“Once again, we see the people of Scotland suffering under Westminster control and it’s not good enough. Jobs and livelihoods are being put on the line with these drastic cuts and I urge the Tories to rethink their plans immediately.”


An Army spokesperson said: “In the Spring it was announced in Parliament that the Army would be restructured to meet future threats as we implement the outcomes of the integrated review.

“The plans for structural reform are not yet finalised so speculation at this stage is unhelpful and misleading.

“Detailed plans will be submitted to Ministers later this autumn and decisions made public when finalised.”

Under the review, the Infantry will be restructured into four divisions.

These divisions will comprise a balanced number of battalions offering the full range of infantry roles, the Ministry of Defence said.

They added “no cap badges will be deleted nor any redundancies required” as the country looks to shrink overall soldier numbers.

These new structures provide more operational resilience, integration, deployability and greater opportunity for our people, they continued, adding: “The introduction of
‘Intelligent Recruiting’ will ensure that personnel are also better allocated across the Infantry.

“This new structure will require the deletion of a single infantry battalion and a further four battalions will provide the foundational units of the Ranger Regiment.”

The Ranger Regiment four all-arms units will be aligned with the new Divisions of
Infantry and initially seeded from the current Specialised Infantry Battalions: 1 Scots, 2 Prince of Wales’ Royal Regiment, 2 Lancs and 4 Rifles.