The Ministry of Defence needs to ”come clean” over the future of RAF Leuchars amid fresh doubts whether the army will ever move there.
That is the view of a recently retired senior RAF source who told The Courier he feared there was a ”real possibility” that Leuchars could be left as an empty military base with a rusting chain on the gate.
North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell has added his voice, saying it is increasingly clear to him that there is a ”wholesale review” taking place of the original basing decisions and this inevitably breeds uncertainty.
He said that if the relocation of the Leuchars Typhoon squadrons to Lossiemouth proceeds as announced last summer, then the MoD should commit to the undertaking that there will be a ”substantial army presence” on the Fife base.
However, the MoD would not be drawn on the outcome of its ongoing army 2020 review.
It is eight months since the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the Commons he had decided to close Leuchars in its present form, and that it would be used to house thousands of troops returning to the UK from deployment in Germany instead.
Typhoons from Leuchars are due to be relocated to RAF Lossiemouth in Moray from next year, with the RAF leaving Leuchars completely by 2015.
However, the RAF source said that while the decision to close Leuchars was taken by the Treasury under intense cost-cutting pressures, it is increasingly the belief of senior RAF officers that ”blundering” ministers have not thought out the logistics or costs of the move, with growing concern about ”disarray and chaos” behind the scenes.
There is also growing concern, the source said, that the costs of moving the army back from Germany, the cost of moving from Leuchars and re-equipping Lossiemouth and further pressure on the Treasury to make more cuts will further reduce the chances of Leuchars being developed as an army base.
The source said there was growing concern that the worst-case scenario would be that the RAF pull out of Leuchars and the base is left with nothing.
Following the announcement last week that extra Typhoons are coming to Leuchars, the source said the army believes the RAF will ”drag their heels for as long as possible” in the hope that ministers will realise that the decisions so far have been an impractical ”political fix”.
The source said: ”The army will not move to Leuchars in a hurry and only then at the point of a political rifle. The army themselves do not want to move to Leuchars because, for one thing, they would need 25-30 single barrack blocks which currently do not exist and will cost more money than anyone has to hand.
”The army equally is absolutely set on a new army barracks at Kirknewton. The money to pay for that, in any case, would need to come from the sale of Craigiehall, which was the 2nd Division Army HQ, and the sale of Dreghorn and Redford barracks.
”The army have been told the market conditions are such that there will never be time to do what their political masters want.”
The source added that the relocation of Typhoons to Lossiemouth required a ”seamless transfer” of the air force’s Quick Reaction Alert function.
QRA requires Typhoons to be on alert 24 hours a day to defend United Kingdom airspace.
However, with relocated Leuchars Typhoons needing service facilities at Lossiemouth, the source said there was little sign of preparation work taking place, adding fresh doubts to the timetable.
With more army restructuring a possibility, the source said there was ”less chance of a golden nugget going to Leuchars”.
”I think people should be worried. I think people should be very concerned that the possibility of an empty Leuchars military base with a rusting chain on the door is a real possibility.”
A senior army source echoed the sense of behind-the-scenes frustration.
”No-one seems to have a clue what’s going on,” the source said.
The Ministry of Defence was contacted by The Courier and asked for an update on the proposed move by the army to Leuchars.
A spokesman said that at this time there was nothing to add to previous statements. He added that the Army 2020 Review was ongoing and no further comment was available.