New army super barracks could cost £400m

THE proposed new army super barracks in Scotland could cost up to £400 million, The Scotsman has learned.

Military insiders have said that the cost of the plan, announced by Defence Secretary Liam Fox last week, to build the super barracks on the old glider field at Kirknewton in West Lothian is unlikely to be met by the controversial sell off of the historic Redford and Dreghorn barracks and the Craigiehall headquarters in Edinburgh.

The sell-off could make the Ministry of Defence 70m according to the latest Treasury figures, but already there are demands from the SNP that some of the proceeds are handed over to Edinburgh for social housing.

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At a time when the MoD has had to take the brunt of government austerity measures to plug a 38 billion black hole in its finances, the revelation will cast further doubt over the plans for the new super barracks.

It is also understood that despite the huge cost the new barracks will still not include accommodation for married soldiers who will have to live in married quarters housing in Edinburgh and travel each day to Kirknewton.

The plans have already been criticised as "vandalism" of some of Edinburgh's historic buildings and branded "ludicrous" by retired Colonel Clive Fairweather, who was responsible for running parts of the army north of the Border in various roles until 1999.

Insiders have suggested to The Scotsman that the Kirknewton proposal was added by Dr Fox to "sweeten the bitter pill" of the army being forced to have one of its new mobile brigades north of the Border.

The proposal for a mobile brigade in Scotland was initially resisted by the army but was pushed through by Dr Fox because he wanted to increase the number of military personnel in Scotland, despite closing two airforce bases ahead of a probable independence referendum before 2015.

Mr Fairweather has already raised concerns about the extra distance soldiers will need to travel to training areas from Kirknewton and pointed out that the army closed barracks there in the late 1980s because they was deemed "unsuitable".

Yesterday he added: "If these new so called super barracks are to cost up to 400 million and won't include married quarters it will make the whole proposal seem even more ludicrous.

"You have to question whether this will really happen or whether because the whole idea seems so impractical and costly."

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Meanwhile, SNP Edinburgh West MSP Colin Keir has written to the MoD demanding that part of the proceeds of the sale of Dreghorn, Redford and Craigiehall is given over for social housing in Scotland's capital.

He said: "The Ministry of Defence's decision to leave Edinburgh leaves a hole in large parts of the city and in city life. Edinburgh has always supported the army and they are a regular presence in the west of the city.

"I want to see some contribution made to Edinburgh and to the people of the city.

"Ministry of Defence accommodation in Edinburgh ranges from family houses to barracks accommodation. Both of these could be converted to offer good quality housing in Edinburgh and help meet the housing shortage in this city.

"Around 16,000 homes will be needed over the next 10 years to bridge the housing shortfall in the capital."The army needs to have accommodation for about 6,500 troops in Scotland when the full mobile brigade is in place by 2020 effectively doubling the size of the army north of the Border with soldiers returning from Germany.

Among the other locations chosen are the former RAF bases Leuchars in Fife and Kinloss in Moray along with the former naval accommodation at HMS Caledonia in Rosyth.

The size of the army in Scotland also meant a reprieve for Fort George near Inverness which will remain the home of the Black Watch.

The MoD said last night that any estimates on the cost of the new super-barracks was "speculation".