The Scottish Government is to campaign against plans to close eight military sites north of the border.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown, who served in the Armed Forces and whose brief includes responsibility for veterans, insisted the shock closure announcement by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon earlier this week was not the “end of the story” for the bases.
Mr Brown also attacked the UK Government minister for failing to consult him about the changes, telling MSPs at Holyrood that one of the bases, Fort George near Inverness, is “in the care of Scottish ministers”.
He said UK ministers had “cancelled meetings on several occasions” as he tried to find out more about the plans ahead of the announcement.
Sir Michael told the Commons on Monday that eight military sites in Scotland – including Fort George, the Glencorse Barracks near Penicuik, Midlothian, and the Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in Edinburgh – are among more than 56 sites to be closed across the UK over the next 15 years.
The Caledonia Naval base in Rosyth, Fife, Condor Airfield near Arbroath, Angus, Craigiehall Barracks in Edinburgh and Forthside Barracks in Stirling are also affected.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to the Prime Minister to “express her firm opposition to these cuts”, he said, adding that the SNP leader “also expressed concern about the MoD’s failure to keep their promises to consult with the Scottish Government”.
Mr Brown continued: “I personally made every effort to meet Ministry of Defence (MoD) ministers before decisions were made but they cancelled meetings on several occasions. No consultation took place, even in the case of Fort George where Scottish ministers have a direct interest in operation of the site.
“This shows a complete lack of respect for the Scottish Government’s legitimate interests in these decisions that have a clear impact on Scotland.”
He insisted: “The Scottish Government does not accept that Monday’s announcement is the end of the story and I will work closely with local authorities most directly affected to agree next steps.
The planned closure of Fort George “as well as severing historic ties, also represents a near total removal of the Army from the Highlands, a traditional recruiting ground”, Mr Brown said. He added that local agencies estimate the move could result in the loss of some 700 jobs and cost the economy in the area approximately £20 million.
He also condemned plans to close the Naval base in Fife, saying: “The Royal Navy has had an enduring presence in Fife, stretching back to the Battle of Jutland and beyond. It is extremely sad to see this legacy cut away and run down in such a discourteous way.”
Mr Brown said there are also “serious questions” about the proposal to axe the Glencorse Barracks, which he described as a “state-of-the-art facility” that is home to more than 500 members of the Royal Highland Fusiliers.