More uncertainty has been piled onto Arbroath’s 45 Commando base after the UK Defence Secretary once again refused to rule out slashing the number of Royal Marines.
Sir Michael Fallon was pressed on reports that the specialist units could be subject to cutbacks because of a reported a £10 billion funding shortfall facing the Ministry of Defence over the next decade.
He denied there was a “shortfall” but did confirm the MoD was making “efficiency savings” of £1bn a year to be reinvested into the Armed Forces.
Pressed on corps cutbacks by Dundee-born broadcaster Eddie Mair on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Sir Michael said: “Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy.
“We are increasing the strength of the Royal Navy by around 400. Now the balance inside the Royal Naval strength between the number of sailors and the number of marines, that’s a military judgment.
“It is a matter for the First Sealord and the military chiefs to advise me on and that’s a balance they keep under review at any time.”
Sir Michael told The Courier in February that the future of Condor as a Royal Marine base was “absolutely secure” during a visit to the site.
His pledge came against the backdrop of an MoD basing review, which will see the Arbroath base lose its airfield.
Fears for the future of 45 Commando emerged at the end of a week which saw the men of the base exercise their proudly held Freedom of Angus with a march through the streets of Arbroath.
Mike Weir, the SNP’s Angus MP, said: “Just a matter of weeks ago when they announced they were selling the airfield at RM Condor the MOD gave an assurance that there was no threat to the Royal Marines at Condor.
“Clearly Condor is not the only marine base and 45 are not the only marines but the refusal of the minister to be clear on this issue does cause concern. I will be seeking clarification from the minister.
“45 Commando celebrated their 45th year in Arbroath last week with a march through the town.
“They have made Arbroath their home for the past four-and-a-half decades and there is a mutual respect between them and the Angus community. We fully respect the job they do and the minister must spell out if there is a long term future for them at Condor.”