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Prime Minister's letter to Alex Salmond

"The defence of our country is planned, organised and managed on a UK basis to meet the needs of the UK as a whole," says David Cameron.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Prime Minister David Cameron has written to Alex Salmond in response to a letter regarding miltary basing. The full letter is published below:

Dear Alex

Thank you for your letter of 8th March on military basing.

I remain as committed as ever to ensuring our 2 governments continue to work constructively across a full range of current activity on the basis of mutual respect. I hope you share this aim, notwithstanding the fact we have fundamental differences on whether or not Scotland’s interests are best served by becoming a separate state from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Your letter raises a number of points related to Liam Fox’s statement in July 2011. 

I’m sure you’ll agree our primary duty is to provide the country with effective defence, based on the best military advice. The basing plan announced last week by the Defence Secretary follows that military advice. There have indeed been changes to what was originally envisaged in July 2011. The evolution of the original plans is however driven by changes to circumstances and operational concepts, not by any lessening of commitment to Scotland’s vitally important contribution to our collective security. 

The plans set out 2 years ago were on the basis of the Army operating a multi-role brigade structure. Under Army 2020, announced last July, there will be a significant restructuring of the Army based on 2 key elements - Reaction Force brigades based on Salisbury Plain and at Colchester, and regionally based Adaptable Force brigades.

Scotland will be one of the Army’s 7 centres of gravity and home to one of the larger Adaptable Force brigades, with army numbers in Scotland increasing by around a quarter on July 2011 levels and significant concentrations of troops at Leuchars, Edinburgh and other sites across Scotland.

What this means for Scotland is that total military personnel numbers are set to increase to their highest levels since 2007, before the financial crash, at a time when we’re planning for smaller armed forces overall. Scotland will be home to one of the UK’s 3 main naval bases and to one of its 3 main fast jet operating bases. There will be around £100m of additional investment in Scotland. This builds on the £140m the MOD spends on average annually to maintain the defence estate in Scotland, some £85m to develop Lossiemouth as an RAF Main Operating Base for Typhoon and the hundreds of millions of pounds of planned future investment in Faslane. These are all visible signs of our commitment to Scotland and to Scotland’s continued vital role in our defence.

In 2010 we inherited a defence budget in which there was a serious mismatch between resources and commitments. Great efforts have been made to balance the budget. This has involved some very tough decisions. However, the Defence Secretary’s success in bringing back under control the MOD budget means we’re in a position to provide servicemen, their families and local communities with clarity and stability going forward. 

The defence of our country is planned, organised and managed on a UK basis to meet the needs of the UK as a whole. Despite the fiscal challenges, the UK has the fourth largest defence budget in the world. Scotland benefits greatly from being part of this and from every pound invested in the collective security the UK provides - not just what is invested in Scotland directly. Also, while the location of the UK’s Armed Forces is decided purely on military requirements, our planned number of armed forces in Scotland will still be proportionate to Scotland’s population.     

Finally, I think it is important for the referendum debate for people to understand that the outcome you seek for Scotland is the end of centuries of our shared British military effort, and the footprint of this military capability in Scotland.

Published 12 March 2013