The future of an Angus military base is “not in question” despite SNP government claims to the contrary, according to the local MP.
Scottish Conservative MP for Angus Kirstene Hair spoke following comments by Scotland’s veterans’ minister that local Royal Marines have been “singled out” for efficiency savings.
She said the base of 45 Commando at RM Condor, in Arbroath, is an irreplaceable part of the community as well as a key defence asset.
Ms Hair pointed out Keith Brown has delivered “the same tired warnings” for several years in order to misdirect people in Angus away from more pressing issues.
She said: “Keith Brown has been making the same tired warnings he has made every year since 2013.
“The former SNP MP for Angus was making the same points since 2004. As a former marine he should know how potentially damaging his repeated, baseless speculation can be to morale at all levels of the service.”
Ms Hair wrote to the Ministry of Defence demanding clarity on the future of 45 Commando, after suggestions that the Royal Marines could have their manpower reduced by 1,000.
She has also spoken to the current and previous Secretaries of State for Defence on the issue.
This week, a debate on the UK’s amphibious capability heard there were no plans to reduce numbers, instead focusing on the role and cost of landing platforms.
Defence minister Harriett Baldwin has said no decisions had been taken on the Royal Marines and “any discussion of the options is pure speculation”.
She said: “We will continue to have the appropriate number of front line Royal Marines to achieve all taskings and will ensure that the Royal Marines are properly trained and equipped to perform a wide range of crucial tasks that we ask them to undertake.”
Ms Hair said: “There is no suggestion that marines will lose their jobs.
“The future of RM Condor and the presence of 45 Commando there are not in question.
“People here in Arbroath know what an incredible contribution 45 Commando make to the community here, whether that’s through allowing local access to their top of the range sports facilities or offering to help host fireworks displays.
“RM Condor makes a great contribution to both the community and the local economy and I will do everything I can to ensure that their position is not put at risk as a result of this defence review.” Mr Brown, in his first correspondence with new Secretary of Defence Gavin Williamson since his appointment, wrote seeking clarity on the issue.
He said: “We are now one year on since the Ministry of Defence announced plans to cut the defence estate in Scotland by 20%, and there is now a threat of further cuts through the on-going National Security Capability Review.
“Only last week we heard from some of the most senior sources available that the armed services are critically underfunded – which makes the widespread reports of further cuts all the more concerning.
“This is causing a great deal of uncertainty for service personnel and their families, and for local communities across Scotland.
“In particular the Royal Marines who appear to have been singled out as a cost-cutting option.
“The Scottish Government remains strongly opposed to any further base closures in Scotland.
“I have written to Mr Williamson to ask for assurances to be provided on Royal Marine numbers and units stationed here in Scotland, and have urged him to confirm that Scotland’s defence footprint will not be further debilitated by UK Government cuts.”