Military chiefs have signalled the famous Black Watch battalion could return home in 2029 by moving to an expanded Leuchars base.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Thursday it intended to restructure the Army, including increasing the number of units based north of the border from six to seven.
The shake-up includes reversing closure plans for Glencorse Barracks, near Edinburgh, and ensuring Kinloss in Moray and Leuchars in Fife both continue to grow.
Under the plans, the Black Watch will leave Fort George barracks in 2029 and relocate to Leuchars.
Such a move would mean the historic barracks near Inverness would close three years earlier than planned, and the famous Black Watch would return closer to its traditional recruiting ground, as local campaigners have long hoped.
Also known as 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), the Black Watch would become part of The 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade.
The MoD said the brigade would draw on personnel and expertise from across the Army, to build the capacity of allied and partner nations.
Traditional recruiting ground
Routinely deployed around the world, security force assistance units contribute to conflict prevention and resilience at an early stage.
Military chiefs had previously stated the 500-strong Black Watch would move to another base in Scotland when Fort George closed, and Leuchars had been considered the front-runner.
In 2017, then Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the move “would bring The Black Watch back into their traditional Tayside recruiting ground”.
It has never been a secret since March that the overall size of the Army is shrinking.”
– Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
The former RAF base was handed over to the Army in March 2015, becoming Leuchars Station and home to Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, who will remain in Fife.
The UK Government said a £355 million investment in the Army estate would deliver over a £1 billion of economic benefits to Scotland.
A new Ranger Regiment would be established, including The Royal Scots Borderers (1SCOTS).
The future of Kinloss Barracks had appeared in doubt after reports the 39 Engineer Regiment would move south of the border, but it is also now expected to grow in size.
Under the plans, the regular Army will stand at 73,000 strong by 2025 and combined with an Army Reserve of 30,000, the British Army will stand at over 100,000.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the restructure would “transform the Army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force”.
He said: “On Scottish units and basing, look, it has never been a secret since March that the overall size of the Army is shrinking.
“The proportion of the Army in Scotland is going up from 5.1% of regulars to 5.5% of regulars.
“However the Army is just not part of the Armed Forces alone. There will be a net increase of approximately 600 regular personnel in Scotland.
“We have moved HMS Dolphin from Portsmouth up to Clyde for the training of submariners. There will be more Navy personnel. There will be more RAF personnel up in Lossiemouth when I base the E7 early warning radar planes up there.
“And I think that means that overall there is an increase. If you add that all together with all the elements of the reserves, and the extras, it’s about 14,500 forces of regulars and reserves that will be based in Scotland. I think that is a significant amount.
“And as a Scot, and a member of a Scottish regiment, what is also pleasing is that the saving of Glencorse will be a good thing for Scotland.
“The expansion of RAF Leuchars for another military base will be a good thing.
“I was determined to still have the Army in the Highlands, so we will see at Kinloss, the Royal Engineers will still remain there, and of course there is extra room, it’s a pretty large base, should we seek to put any more forces.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “Britain’s fantastic Armed Forces have a long and distinguished history in Scotland and the Army’s most significant modernisation in a generation ensures that this will continue as we tackle the threats of the 21st century as one United Kingdom.
“Basing more battalions and a greater proportion of the Army here, along with retaining Glencorse Barracks and growth coming to Kinloss and Leuchars – thanks to £355m investment – demonstrates powerfully how important defence is to Scotland and Scotland is to the defence of the UK and our allies.”