Scottish newspapers report that the Army Basing review is set for a for a big U-turn, with plans for a new super-barracks in the old glider airport of Kirknewton abandoned.
The changes affect the relocation of one of the 5 planned MRBs, that destined to be based in Scotland, and are said to be caused, you guess it, by the accurate estimate of costs having come up with a pricetag much higher that initially expected, causing "spreadsheet" Phil to enforce the changes.
The previous announcement on basing saw RAF Leuchars becoming the base for an MRB HQ, with the units of the brigade accommodates in Leuchars, in the old naval base HMS Caledonia and in a new super-barracks complex to be built on the old glider airfield of Kirknewton. The cost of the super-barracks was to be met selling the ancient and precious estate of the 3 existing bases in Edinburgh: Craigiehall, Dreghorn and Redford.
With the cost of the superbarracks estimated now at 400 millions and the fears (very realistic) that despite the clear value of the estate in Edimburgh it might be complex to find a buyer in a time like this, the push for a rethink is strong. The original idea was that selling the 3 barracks in Edinburgh would raise enough movey to not only fix Kirknewton and the other locations, but make some money out of the plan. Now this is assessed as not realistic.
Add to this the fact that the abandon of historic Craigiehall HQ caused an outcry, and add the fact that the Army does not like Kirknewton's position and the personnel's families like it even less, and you have all reasons to believe a rethink will indeed formally be announced sometime soon.
The new plan, according to the scottish sources, is for the MRB HQ to move into Craigehall, for the happiness of the people of Edinburgh and for that of the Army.
One barracks between Dreghorn and Redford will still be sold, with only one used. Leuchars will still become an army base, in fact, even if it won't get the HQ.
The last doubts hang on HMS Caledonia, where the accommodation is said to be in need for a serious upgrade, which would be quite expensive, if it is to house troops.
Once more, the SDSR proves rushed. A number of assumptions were made in order to shape the cost-cutting, and the following studies have proven the assumptions wrong or over-optimistic, forcing a series of U-turns, from the additional reduction in Army regulars (to 82.000 by 2020 against an SDSR figure of 94.000) announced barely months after the SDSR release, to the confirmation of the Regional Brigades (the SDSR stated that at least two regional brigade HQs would be closed, Future Reserves 2020 brought a rethink) to scottish basing to, according to the latest rumors, the selection of the F35C over the B, without a clear idea of the effective conversion costs for the carriers in mind.
Take heart at least on a thing: this government has had the face for bringing in the House colossal rethinks that have long ripped apart the SDSR original document, effectively rewriting many of its parts.
They could well return to the F35B, sweetening the pill by, hopefully, announcing that they want to keep both CVS in service, since that would save on conversions costs. I would absolutely welcome the decision.
One rethink more, one rethink less... does not make much difference, does it...?