Plans for Royal Marines 'super-base' in the South West postponed
The Government has rowed back on plans to move Royal Marines based in Scotland to the Westcountry to unite all three commando units in the region.
But well-placed sources have told the Western Morning News the decision to retain 45 Commando in Arbroath does not spell the end for a mooted Marines "super-base" across the region.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday announced Scotland-based Navy commandos would stay north of the border for the "foreseeable future".
In 2011, then Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced around 1,000 members of 45 Commando and support staff would be transferred to the South West within five years.
At present, 40 Commando is in Taunton and 42 Commando in Plymouth, with barracks at Chivenor near Braunton in North Devon and Lympstone, close to Exeter.
Plymouth is also the home of the Army's 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.
Under one plan being scrutinised by officials, the move could have paved the way for shifting basic naval training from HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall, to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon – the iconic officer training base.
The transfer could have then freed up Raleigh as the new home for 45 Commando – creating a "super-base" across the sites in Torpoint, Plymouth and Taunton.
One source told the WMN that the failure to complete a large, complex deal to "co-locate" officer and ratings training at Dartmouth was the principal reason why 45 Commando has not moved south yet – rather than as a move to spike the guns of Scottish nationalists who would have seized on the withdrawal in the run-up to the 2014 independence vote.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View and shadow defence minister, said: "I was surprised to hear in the Government statement that 45 Commando were for the time being remaining in Scotland.
"I am therefore intending to seek reassurance from ministers that there have been no other changes made to plans around the amphibious centre in Plymouth, not least because the additional personnel that are and were expected in and around our city are important to our local economy."
Former Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, indicated that Mr Hammond's use of the term "foreseeable future" indicated the transfer had not been ruled out indefinitely. He said: "My reading is that the Marines 'super-base' won't come about any time soon. But I don't think it has gone from the planning board forever."
Mr Hammond also announced yesterday around 11,000 British troops based in Germany will return home by 2016.