The local community has been left stunned by the news that Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, home to the Army for almost 150 years and currently home to 552 service personnel, will close in 2032.
In total, eight military sites in Scotland will close in the next 15 years, cutting the defence estate by 20 per cent.
The announcement was made on Monday by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon as part of cost-saving measures. He told the House of Commons on Monday that the defence estate was vital, but too vast and inefficient. The closures, he said, would help to deliver better value for money and allow the release of land to build 55,000 houses “where they are needed most”.
Ann Steadman, of Glencorse Association, which runs the Glencorse Centre community facility, was shocked by the announcement.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. It’s absolutely devastating.
“There are a lot of people employed locally connected to the barracks.
“I had no inclination whatsoever that this would happen.
“It isn’t just employment, it’s hugely significant historically. There are places on the Somme called Mauricewood, Bellwood and Glencorse due to the Army’s history with Penicuik.
She said there had always been very good links between the Army and the community.
“Whenever they have come back from Afghanistan or wherever they have been, there has always been a big parade through Penicuik and everybody locally has been very supportive of them,” she said.
“The barracks is an integral part of the community and mutually supported. We have a liaison officer from the Army who helps us with any events we have, and they have used the centre.
“Before we opened Glencorse Centre, the Army would give us tents for our fun days, and bring an assault course down.”
Midlothian’s political leaders have said the announcement is “a worrying blow and worse than expected”.
Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, said the announcement would have a “massive impact” on the Penicuik economy.
He accused the UK government of “closure by stealth”, adding: “It’s very disappointing. There had been no information in advance.
“I imagine when the local community finds out there will be an uproar. I think this is a decision that is going to be really deeply felt in Penicuik and Midlothian.”
Councillor Catherine Johnstone (SNP), leader of Midlothian Council said: “The local community are going to be faced with economic uncertainty as the Glencorse base winds down.
“Trident renewal is veering out of any financial control and conventional defence spending is plundered because of the Tories’ utter incompetence and communities all round Scotland are now paying for it.
“Once again the promises given by Tory politicians about defence in Scotland before the independence referendum ring hollow. These cuts prove beyond any doubt that the Tory UK government cannot be trusted with the defence of Scotland.”
However, Midlothian Green Party believes the Ministry of Defence announcement that Glencorse Barracks will be closed by 2032 is an opportunity to plan for the facilities to be used for the benefit of the whole community.
Midlothian Green Party spokeswoman Daya Feldwick said: “Glencorse Barracks has been in decline for a number of years. The number of people employed there by the Army has been going steadily down, and many of the houses provided for MoD personnel are empty at a time when thousands of people are on the council housing waiting list.
“But while we welcome the transition to smaller military forces, we must prevent the MoD pursuing its favoured path of selling off the land to the highest bidder.
“The council should be talking to the Army right now about transferring the MoD housing and barracks units to council ownership for use as social housing, and about the opportunities to create small business units at the site to generate sustainable local employment.”