Should the MoD be buying up land in Scotland or paying soldiers their pensions?

An article in today’s Sunday Times suggests the MoD is looking to purchase a controversial piece of land in the Highlands of Scotland, against, it would appear, the will of local people.

In my opinion, the MoD would do well to use any extra pennies they seem to have now found stashed down the back of the MoD sofa to pay  those troops made compulsorily redundant within a year of their pension point the pensions they have earned and deserve,  rather than buying up real estate in controversial areas of natural beauty in Scotland,  where local people are clearly opposed.

In the last tranche of cuts in June, some 50 service personnel were made redundant within a year of reaching their pension point.  My brother included.  He will be 82 days short of his pension point having served nearly 16 years and three long tours on the front line.

These men and women are losing out on 80% of their pensions.  The governemnt line is that they are receiving a “significantly increased redundancy package” but this is worth only 20% of the pension they have accrued to date and were promised.  Is the MoD unable to add up? Or think the soldiers and their families can’t add up? 

The treasury is saving thousands of pounds on the backs of “the warrior generation”, as the Chief of General Staff , has described this cohort of soldiers who have seen more active service than any since World War II.  

The question is, Is this a deliberate policy by the treasury to save thousands of pounds off the backs of these soldiers? Or just an oversight in the way the redundancy and pension schemes interact? Not enough modelling done  prior to these announcements?  

Probably the later, as Mr Hammond admitted to me personally in a letter in July that he  had been badly briefed prior to a defence  committee meeting regarding the redundancy issue and had made a “mistake” in his statement and was therefore forced to issue a “corrected statement” to the defence committee. Other mistakes and oversights may also have been made. 

That is why we are calling for a review of these cases and the redundancy scheme to ensure these soldiers and their families and future soldiers in the coming two tranches of cuts don’t suffer the same financial turmoil.

So please,  step away from the estate agents in Scotland Mr Hammond.  Concentrate on  finding a solution for the families of these men and women who have planned their financial lives on the promises of these pensions.  To do less is to break the spirit of the Military Covenant.  

 Surely the government should be honouring it’s promises and committment first to the men and women who have risked their lives to uphold government policies rather than any committment to material procurements or any pieces of land in the highlands of Scotland?

Please sign the epetiton and pass on to friends if you can.

Battle to save Cape Wrath from MoD

Mark Macaskill Published: 16 September 2012

CAMERON McNEISH, the celebrated walker and one of the SNP’s most high-profile supporters, has vowed to fight Ministry of Defence plans to buy a remote tract of land on the Cape Wrath peninsula.

McNeish, who recently devised Scotland’s first national walking trail — which ends at Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point of mainland Britain — fears the final leg of the 470-mile route will have to be changed if the MoD is successful.

He accused the Westminster government of mounting a landgrab that could seal off one of Scotland’s most famous wildernesses from the public.

The national trail will be opened by Alex Salmond next month. A guidebook is going on sale and a BBC documentary about the route, which starts at Kirk Yetholm in the Borders, has been filmed.

The MoD owns most of the land at Cape Wrath, the only place in Europe where 1,000lb bombs are allowed to be dropped. It wants to buy 58 acres of headland around a lighthouse — designed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather — that is being sold by the Northern Lighthouse Board.Artillery and mortar positions, and barracks could be built on the land.

McNeish is backing a community buyout to thwart the MoD and plans to meet Scottish ministers. “I would suggest the only reason they want to buy the lighthouse land is to force a complete closure on the whole of the peninsula,” he said.

“With the question of an independence referendum on everyone’s lips, this is perhaps a good time to ask if this is another scenario of Westminster forcing a landgrab on the Scottish people — particularly on a small and isolated community in the north of Scotland whose only income comes from a very short tourist season.

“And for what reason? So the MoD can play some war games? If Westminster and the MoD get their way then precious jobs will be lost and one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks will become private.”

About 2,000 tourists visit Cape Wrath each year, mainly in the summer, for birdwatching and walking trips.

John and Kay Ure run the Ozone — Britain’s most remote cafe — from a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage on Cape Wrath, and say they could shut it if the military closes off the peninsula to the public.

“We have nine years left on our lease. We will be surrounded by the Ministry of Defence,” they said.

The Ures have support from residents of nearby Durness, who have a petition calling on the Scottish government to support a community buyout. The sell-off by Northern Lighthouse Board came to light when the Durness Development Group, a community body, applied to renew its right-to-buy interest.

The MoD said: “The Ministry of Defence has shown an interest in the site at Cape Wrath and is aware a community right-to-buy application is currently under consideration with the Scottish government. No action will be taken ahead of the decision on the community right-to-buy application.”


1 Comment

  1. Andrew Wilson

    The land in question is where the ex Lloyds buildings are located, not the land upon which the lighthouse is located, this will be retained by the Northern Lighthouse Board and is the land upon which The Ozone Cafe is located. The road is owned by the Highland Council and will remain so. The ex Lloyds buildings are in a state of disrepair and will cost anyone who does buy the land a fair sum of money to even demolish,quite frankly they are an eyesore anyway and currently closed off to the public for safety reasons. I know for a fact that since mid April until today the MOD have not closed the road for any military exercise and as such the local tourism operators have not suffered. Why would the MOD want to close off the peninsular when the lands current use really only extends to 2 large exercises per year and one of them takes place outside of the tourist season?
    If the DDG are so interested in a community buy out of the land why as this not
    progressed since the MOD expressed an interest in the land over 5 years ago? Where are the DDG going to find the money from to buy the land and either demolish or make good the Lloyds buildings? I doubt very much that this money will come from less than 30% of the community! What happens in another 5 years time when the DDG have still not made any proposals to finance the buy out or is this just a case of stopping the MOD from buying the land?

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