A shake-up of Army bases to accommodate a speeded-up return of all troops from Germany will mean the disposal of seven sites across the country, it has been announced.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the changes would save £240 million a year in running costs as soldiers are moved into "clusters" in key locations.
Returning forces will mainly be stationed around Salisbury Plain, Edinburgh and Leuchars, Catterick, Aldershot, Colchester, Stafford and the East Midlands. With the size of the Army already being substantially reduced, however, it will also mean several other sites losing their military presence.
Those being made available for disposal are: Claro Barracks, Ripon, North Yorkshire; Howe Barracks, Canterbury; Craigiehall Barracks in Edinburgh; Cawdor Barracks in Brawdy, Pembrokeshire; and elements of Redford Barracks, Edinburgh; Forthside Barracks, Stirling; and Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury.
Around 11,000 British troops based in Germany will return home by 2016 under plans which will see nearly £2 billion invested in Army housing and bases. That is 70% of the total and ahead of the plan to have half out by that date. The remaining 4,500 troops will be back in the UK by 2019, a year earlier than planned. Around £1 billion of the funding being announced will be go towards 1,900 new houses for service families and accommodation for 7,800 single soldiers. Another £800 million will be spent on infrastructure and refurbishment of bases.
Far fewer than originally anticipated of the returning troops will be based in Scotland, Mr Hammond confirmed - but insisted Scotland would still have "a little bit more than its fair share" of military personnel based on the size of its population.
Mr Hammond said: "By setting out our plans to bring troops back to the UK we are not only providing our service personnel and their families with greater stability for their future, but also generating a saving of around £240 million a year in operational running costs. We are going to invest an additional £1.8 billion in our new basing plan." Mr Hammond accepted there would be "significant regret" and civilian job losses in all areas losing bases but said the investment would also create new opportunities. He said the return of around £600 million a year presently being put into the German economy because of the presence of UK troops would be a "welcome shot in the arm for the UK economy".
General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, said: "This announcement is very welcome news for the Army. The plan provides an excellent springboard for operations overseas and it affords welcome certainty over where people will live."
Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb said the closure of the Cawdor Barracks - which Mr Hammond said was no longer "fit for purpose" - was "disappointing". But he welcomed a £100 million investment in the St Athan base to which the 14th Signal Regiment (EW) unit is to relocate.
Scottish National Party Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson said the U-turn on the numbers going to Scotland "betrayed communities who were told one thing just two years ago and now find that the MoD has broken its promises". Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: "We are seeing £100 million of investment in military infrastructure and hundreds of additional soldiers coming to Scottish Army bases, bringing the total number to 4,000. It shows a deep commitment to Scotland as an integral part of our country's defence and should be welcomed. Those who criticise the decision today should not do so without offering a fully-costed and detailed plan of exactly how these figures would change if Scotland was no longer part of the UK. There has been a great deal of speculation from the Scottish Government on this issue but no hard facts."