‘Absolutely no suggestion of closure’ says MP

RM Condor.
RM Condor.

THE RUMOUR mill has operated on overtime over the last few days as pundits from every corner of the defence envelope have put forward their views on whether or not 45 Commando Group, Royal Marines, will vacate its base at Condor.

But as no evidence to support the claims has been put forward, Angus MP Mike Weir believes that the timing could not have been worse as the men of 45 Commando are currently serving in Afghanistan and their families at home are reading all the hype.

It has been suggested that the unit could move from Arbroath as part of a major reorganisation of British forces and it has been hinted that a Scottish regiment could take its place.

The Ministry of Defence has stated that no decision has yet been made on the future of RAF bases in Scotland or on the military basing review overall.

A spokesman stated: “It is a complex piece of work, and it is important to make sure that any decisions made are the right ones for the Armed Forces, rather than rush through the process, so analysis is still ongoing.

“Final decisions will be made and announced as soon as we are in a position to do so.”

However, if a decision is made to move the unit it will end a relationship with Condor and the local community that has lasted for four decades since it was moved there from Plymouth in 1971.

It has been stated that the presence of 45 Commando in Scotland is seen as a Cold War hangover no longer needed at a time when wars have been fought in the Middle East.

The unit was originally moved to Arbroath to be closer to Norway primarily for Arctic training to allow the UK to deal with the Soviet threat. It was tasked with being an immediate reinforcement should that be required on NATO’s northern flank. Local MP Mike Weir is not at all happy about the rumours which have been published in the daily press.

He has called the current speculation over the future of RM Condor “unhelpful and unfortunate” and has pointed out that, despite some of the comments made by “so called experts” no one has suggested that the base would close.

Mr Weir went on: “The current wave of speculation is both unhelpful and unfortunate, especially as the unit is presently serving in difficult conditions in Afghanistan.

“There is absolutely nothing new in the basics of the story that the Marines may leave Condor and perhaps join the other parts of 3 Commando Brigade in Dorset. Such speculation has done the rounds for years and, indeed, such a move was, I understand, considered by the previous government and rejected.”

He continued: “At present there is an ongoing review of all military bases and we cannot be certain as to the outcome of that but what has been suggested, and it is no more than a rumour, is that the Marines may move out and an army battalion returning from Germany might move in.

“There is absolutely no suggestion of the closure of the base, despite some of the comments being  made by so called military experts, who can have no more detailed information than anyone else outside the MOD.”

Mr Weir concluded: “We should not, however, get ourselves into the position of believing that if the Marines are moved then Condor will close. That is emphatically not the case.

“Although the Marines have been at Condor for a long time, before them there was an equally close relationship with the Fleet Air Arm. I am sure that if another service battalion was stationed at Condor they would find as warm  a welcome from the local community as 45 Commando have.

“RM Condor remains an important part of the local economy and we should all ensure that we act together to retain it as an operational base, irrespective of what unit is stationed there.”

Local businessman Chic Grant, a former Royal Marine at Condor and a member of the East of Scotland branch of the Royal Marines Association said that he and his colleagues find that the speculative coverage about 45 Commando moving from Condor is not at all helpful to the morale of the unit serving in Afghanistan or, indeed, their families left back here.

He stated: “This speculation rears its head every couple of years but in this instance the timing is way off.

“Instead of speculating about it in the media could those who are leaking this information keep it until there is a hard and fast decision.”