Midlothian’s politicians have come together to fight plans to close the historic Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik.
As part of Ministry of Defence (MoD)plans announced in November by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, the Midlothian home to the British Army is set to close in 2032 – one of 56 sites across the UK earmarked to go.
All six councillors from the Penicuik and Midlothian West wards, Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame and Midlothian MP Owen Thompson have united in cross-party support to launch a petition which is set to be delivered to the House of Commons by Mr Thompson.
It invites Mr Fallon to visit the Penicuik site as part of the MoD review of armed force bases currently underway, and also calls for further clarification over the timeline of the winding down period for the barracks.
Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP) said: “Glencorse Barracks is fit for purpose following its £60 million upgrade in 2005 when it was hailed by the Ministry of Defence as ‘bench-mark accommodation’.
“It makes no financial sense to close Glencorse given that it is already at the standard required for a modern army base and needs no major works to continue to operate effectively and efficiently.”
Built in 1803, the Glencorse camp was used to house French prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars.
Glencorse Barracks has been home to the Army for almost 150 years and currently accommodates 552 service personnel,
Christine Grahame (SNP), MSP for Midlothian South, said: “The history of Glencorse from the Napoleonic wars through to the present day is well documented and there is no doubt that the base is an integral part of the wider Penicuik community.
“Armed forces personnel and their families are involved in all aspects of the town, the arguments backing up the retention of Glencorse are strong.”
Penicuik councillor Adam Montgomery (Lab), is delighted that the different political parties are working together on the petition.
He said: “It’s the right way to do it.
‘‘It shows the unity in the town against these plans.
“Back in 2003/04 I was given assurances by the UK government that they wouldn’t shut it and they then spent £50 million on refurbishing it.
“I find it unbelievable that they are going to close it, when other barracks staying open will need refurbishment work carried out.
“If you have got a barracks that’s been modernised and is fully operation, why would you shut that one as opposed to ones that need work?
“The only reason I can think of is that the land is worth more.”
Cllr Montgomery is now keen for as many local people to sign the petition as possible.
“I think the folk in the town would like to see it staying,” he said.
“I will be getting as many signatures as I can. We will all be doing our bit to get it out there.
“Hopefully it will help keep the barracks here.”
Midlothian West councillor Kelly Parry (SNP) added: “There are growing valid concerns for the continuing maintenance of the barracks over the intervening years and a need for clarity over the timeline of the winding down period. The community also have concerns that the closure will damage both the local economy and the local communities’ historic links with the base. The MoD need to urgently give us answers.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We have made clear its commitment to an enduring Defence presence in Scotland.
“The Better Defence Estate Strategy, announced in November, will result in investment being concentrated into fewer, better, locations in Scotland.
“It will allow the disposal of under-used sites for which there is no longer an enduring Defence requirement and enable greater investment in sites which better support military capability.”
Download copies of the petition at: www.owenthompson.scot/app/download/18760069/GLENCORSE+BARRACKS+CLOSURE+PETITION.pdf
Completed petitions can be handed in or posted to Owen Thompson MP, 97 High Street, Dalkeith, EH22 1AX.
If you would like a paper copy of the petition posted to you email: Owen.Thompson.MP@Parliament.uk