Shame on you, Dr Fox – less doesn’t mean more

Scotsman debate on defence in Scotland held at Victoria Halls in Helensburgh'Panellist Clive Fairweather'Pic Wattie Cheung................. 24/9/08'Copyright � Wattie Cheung , First Use Only ,Editorial Use Only, All repros payable, No Internet Use,No Syndication , No Archiving'� WATTIE CHEUNG tel 07774 885266'email.... wattiecheung@mac.com
Scotsman debate on defence in Scotland held at Victoria Halls in Helensburgh'Panellist Clive Fairweather'Pic Wattie Cheung................. 24/9/08'Copyright � Wattie Cheung , First Use Only ,Editorial Use Only, All repros payable, No Internet Use,No Syndication , No Archiving'� WATTIE CHEUNG tel 07774 885266'email.... wattiecheung@mac.com

CLOSING a perfectly functional barracks like Dreghorn not only seems a no-brainer to me – it is a positively criminal waste of precious resources close to all the many advantages found in Edinburgh for families and soldiers.

This is also where most married quarters are too, whilst Kirknewton – a perfectly useful gliding airfield for cadets – is in the absolute middle of nowhere.

The nearby village is a mile or more of a trudge away and boasts only a small inn and not much of an infrastructure or schools that will be able to cope with such a giant influx. Edinburgh is a very long hike away indeed, although all this must have been obvious to military planners on their hurried recces.

Selling off Redford, which has always been a slightly uncomfortable set of buildings, but now used for both regulars and TA (the latter in the Cavalry Barracks), may make slightly more sense, but again is close to Colinton and Edinburgh with all the huge and striking advantages this brings.

I presume the real driver is the potential sale value of this and the Dreghorn site. Shame on the Treasury vultures who are after rich pickings at the expense of families in particular.

Getting rid of Craigiehall is based on the same warped premise – the potential sale value of the site.

It is nuts, as the military strength in Scotland is suddenly doubled (nearly trebled), to suddenly get rid of the GOC’s (General Officer Commanding’s) post and run things in Scotland from nearly 400 miles away over the border, double that if you count the distance to the islands.

Talk about being perverse. These are rushed and poorly-researched plans, generally, which along with the surprise announcements about a barracks in Rosyth, for Scotland reek mainly of short-term politics to thwart the SNP, but which bear little sense for our already tiny and now dwindling Army.

In the end they will probably sell the various barracks for much less than they think – Craigiehall (which is right under the airport flight path) in particular.

One other consideration about the barracks in Redford being sold off and the loss of Dreghorn barracks should be mentioned. All, and particularly the latter, are within easy marching distance of the training areas on the northern side of the Pentlands which I played a part in preserving in 1986.

It will take five times as long to get there from Kirknewton, where no training area will be left, adding to the carbon footprint greatly, as troops will have to be driven. The same applies to the ranges on the south side of the Pentlands at Castlelaw.

The likelihood therefore is that these vast new barracks in the middle of nowhere will be good for dossing in and not much more, apart from the odd expensive simulator.

Shame on you, Dr Fox. Less (far fewer regulars, build up the TA) certainly does not mean more.

“Butcher” Fox might be the more accurate soubriquet.

I have not said anything yet about the implications for the Royal Regiment of Scotland, mainly because Afghanistan will shield the timescale for a bit longer – maybe a year – though the Treasury would love to be saving on soldiers’ pay right away.

The implications are that Scotland will certainly lose one of its battalions, possibly two. There are a number of ways D Inf [Director of Infantry] and the Scottish Colonels could set about this.

One way to do it is by role – in which case the Argylls in the air assault role might survive. Equally, they might get rid of the armoured infantry role in Germany in which case the Highlanders are at risk and might disband in situ.

Or the light infantry-roled battalions like the Black Watch, Royal Highland Fusiliers or Royal Scots Borderers could be more at risk.

More likely it will be done by seniority, in which case the Argylls and Highlanders are most at risk. Or they could turn one or two into TA Battalions, thus avoiding a humungous row about the loss of famous names, in which case all are at risk and geography and populations will play a much bigger part in any considerations.

Being recently amalgamated like the Royal Scots Borderers will cut a tiny bit of ice, but in this dog-eat-dog situation everyone will be out to save their own skin.