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The Ministry of Defence has 374 sites in Scotland and owns land covering almost 25,000 hectares, an estate thought to be worth £1.3 billion. 25,000 people are employed directly by the MoD in Scotland, at least 15,000 of whom are serving either in the Army, Navy or RAF. Approximately £1.5bn of defence expenditure is spent directly in Scotland. Manning levels in Scottish regiments are among the highest in the British army and the army's 2nd Division, which covers Scotland and the north of England has 13,500 regular troops, nearly 16,000 territorials and more than 20,000 cadets. The RAF employs about 6,300 service personnel and 1,300 civilians across the country. A total of 2,000 service personnel, 450 civilian staff and 50 aircraft are based at RAF Leuchars. The Royal Navy has its Scottish headquarters at Faslane, which is also home to the Trident nuclear submarines. 7,000 navy and civilian staff work at Faslane for the Royal Navy and defence company Babcock Naval Services - the largest number employed on a single site in the country.

It is nearly fifteen years since the Cold War ended but many of the military installations and facilities built in Scotland to oppose the Soviet Union are still operational. During the 1990s, downsizing and closure of many facilities used by the British and American Armed Forces did happen but not anywhere near to the extent some may have expected. Instead, a multitude of facilities have remained in operation and some have had their operational status enhanced as Britain continues to spend billions of pounds on defence. Over 24,000 members of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces work at military sites in Scotland, over 15,000 military personnel and nearly 9,000 civil servants. Whilst the public perception of the end of the Cold War in Scotland was of symbolic closures such as at the communications station at Edzell in Angus and of the US Navy submarine base on the Holy Loch, it also allowed significant reorganisation, refurbishment and reinvestment in key military facilities. This perhaps being one reason why the widely hoped for post-Cold War 'Peace Dividend' did not eventually materialise.

Many facilities continue to play a notable role in the operation of British and American defence departments. This is especially so in the current political and international climate. Military installations in Scotland play an active part in the 'war on terror', by providing intelligence and communications as well as military personnel and equipment. One clear trend is that advances in technology have allowed increased automation of the many military observation and communication facilities dotted abut the Highlands and Islands as they have become remote controlled from bases in England.

What is also clear is that a considerable effort is still going into monitoring the threat from the 'Northern Waters' of the North Atlantic. In his book 'Fortress Scotland' (1983) Malcolm Spaven described the crucial strategic role played by Scotland during the Cold War. Due to its' geographical location Scotland would act as the 'cork' for the bottleneck of the North Atlantic 'Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap' through which NATO and Soviet naval and air forces would move and clash during periods of tension and in the build-up to war. As a consequence Scotland became host to a wide range of military establishments acting as a vital monitoring station, launching point and supply base for NATO forces. Whilst many would think that tension between East and West was a thing of the past, this, relatively brief, study suggests significant effort is still going into preparing for similar eventualities, Russia still being regarded with a great deal of suspicion by the military. One Trident submarine from Faslane, for example, still lurks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, somewhere in the North Atlantic (at a cost of £1.5 thousand million a year) preparing to fire its intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with 100 kiloton nuclear warheads in the event of Russia (the only country that could manage it) firing a sneak attack on mainland Britain.

But it is true to say that the scale and scope of military activity in Scotland is still much reduced from the peak of the Cold War. One glaring difference between the 1980's and today, is the almost complete disappearance of the American military presence from Scotland. Apart from a few NATO communication stations there are no major US bases in Scotland at all, although there are still US nuclear weapons in the UK, at Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. The ending of the Cold War was a major reason for this but other factors are also important. The increased range of the US's Trident system meant that there was no longer a need for a forward base for US submarine launched intercontinental ballistic missiles at the Holy Loch, for example. Technological advances, improved satellite systems and automation of monitoring stations (as mentioned above) have also allowed the US to drastically scale down their military presence in Scotland. But there are other, perhaps more insidious, reasons for the apparent disappearance of US forces. The trend over the last 15 years or so in the organisation of NATO has been for greater integration between the military forces of the different member nations. One reason for the absence of the US in Scotland is simply that UK forces have become more integrated into NATO and are doing the job for them. Warfare has also changed, and so has US thinking. Technological advances now allow smaller, lighter armies that can flexibly respond to a wider range of conflicts using more precise weapons and greatly improved communication systems. Whilst this military doctrine is currently being tested, perhaps to its limits, in Iraq, US military thinking is that they no longer need a massive military presence in the UK. But they haven't gone completely, instead preferring to 'visit' Scotland during exercises, for training and to use UK facilities as staging posts for launching attacks on other countries.

Despite the strategic nuclear weapons based at Faslane and Coulport, and the large RAF bases on the east coast of Scotland, the main conclusion drawn from this pamphlet would be that Scotland has become increasingly important as a training ground for the troops, sailors and air-crews of both Britain's and NATO's military forces and as a testing ground for their new weapons. With Cape Wrath in the north and Dundrennan in the south, over the last decade the air, waters and land of Scotland have become increasingly used for major exercises and weapons testing. At Dundrennan the US are testing their 'super-gun'; at Cape Wrath, the US Navy come to test their crew's live-firing skills before becoming operationally ready. The Highlands is covered by the largest and most often used low flying exercise area in Europe. The Joint Maritime Course, held three times a year off the North and West coast of Scotland, is the largest combined forces exercise held regularly by NATO countries. Increasingly, as the strategic importance of Scotland's position declines, its relatively low population density, its distance from Westminster (and, as importantly, the voters of Middle England) and its large MoD estate has made Scotland one of the most important military play-grounds in the Northern hemisphere.

To accommodate the training and testing going on in Scotland, the MoD has significantly increased the amount of land it has access to in Scotland by retaining a number of sites around the country. In fact, the amount of land the MoD currently controls in Scotland in 2004 is four times greater than at any point during the Cold War. In 1980, the MoD owned or leased 24.8 thousand hectares (54.6 thousand acres) in Scotland. But by 2003, land available to the MoD had risen over four times to 115.2 thousand hectares (or 253.4 thousand acres) largely due to the massive amount of land the MoD has acquired limited rights to (see a list of some of these areas in the tables below). This massive amount of land acquired, largely after the end of the Cold War, is equivalent to a two mile wide corridor running from Glasgow to the town of Wick in the north of Scotland, 227 miles away.

In stark contrast, land controlled by the MoD in England and Wales remained the same over the same period, or in the case of military land in England, decreased.

The MoD has continued to increase the size of its' estate in Scotland in recent years, acquiring for example, in 2001, the 14,877 acre Cape Wrath training area and bombing range, land that they had previously used on a leasehold basis. As a result of acquiring land in this way the MoD is currently one of the largest landowners in the country, owning or having rights to nearly 1.5% of Scotland.

List of current land over which MOD has limited rights
DERA Hebrides Range South Uist Restrictions and access 1 November 1968
DERA Hebrides Range South Uist Compensation payment for restrictive rights over areas of land known as danger areas 19 May 1973
Galloway Trg. Area Galloway Forest Training area 1 January 1987
Cultybraggan Trg. Camp Cultybraggan Land for dry training 23 September 1989
Tighnablair Trg. Area Cultybraggan Land for Army training 1 June 1990
Barry Buddon Barry Buddon Lightkeepers House 1 September 1990
Lossie Forest Trg. Area Lossie Forest Land for training 1 January 1992
Tighnablair Trg. Area Cultybraggan Land for Army training 16 May 1992
Castle Kennedy Trg. Area Castle Kennedy Airfield Army training 1 January 1993
Ardgarten Trg. Area Ardgarten Forest Training land l July 1993
Glutt Field Glutt Field Firing range 16 February 1994
Ardgarten Training Area Glencroe Hill Training land 1 June 1994
Loch Ewe Trg. Area Gairloch Estate Army training area 1 October 1995
Loch Ewe Trg. Area Inveran Estate Army training area 1 October 1995
Loch Ewe Trg. Area Big Sands Estate Army training area 1 October 1995
Cultybraggan Trg. Camp Lochearn Training rights 1 April 1996
Cultybraggan Trg. Camp Bennybeg Crags Climbing Training 1 April 1996
Charterhall Charterhall Training Area 12 April 1996
Wyvis Estate Evanton Training Area 2l October 1996
Grantown-on-Spey RAF OAC Grantown-on-Spey Area of land for training 1 April 1997
Grantown-on-Spey RAF OAC Grantown-on-Spey Area of land for training 1 April 1997
Inverness Leiterchuillin Crags Lease of training rights 1 April 1998
Wolfehopelee Forest Wolfehopelee Forest Training area 1 January 1999
Grandtully Aberfeldy Training rights 1 July 1999
Dalbeattie Edingham Fibua Site Training rights 15 January 2000
Loch Fyne Noise Trials Range Lease of land 20 March 2000
Loch Ewe Trg. Area Tournaig Estate Training rights 1 April 2000
Galloway Galloway Access track to training area 1 April 2001
Loch Ewe Trg. Area Aultbea Estate Training rights 1 April 2002
Machrihanish Machrihanish Trg. Area Land for military training 1 April 2002
South Kintyre South Kintyre Trg. Area Land for training 1 April 2002
South Kintyre Trg. Area South Kintyre Land for military training 1 April 2002
South Kintyre South Kintyre Trg. Area Land for military training 1 April 2002
Balduff Training Area Balduff Lease of land for military training 1 May 2002
Balduff Training Area Balduff Lease of land for military training 1 May 2002
Balduff Training Area Balduff Lease of land for military training 1 May 2002
Balduff Training Area Balduff Lease of land for military training 1 May 2002
Huntleys Cave Grantown-on-Spey Rock climbing 1 April 2003


Location(no particular establishment overseeing) Start date
(A right in Perpetuity is usually associated with a facility owned by the MOD and restricts the landowner in undertaking certain types of activity or development. The Terminable rights are in association with leased with leased land and usually terminate at the same time as the lease expires)
Southqueensferry Restrictive rights in Perpetuity July 1863
Milltown Restrictive rights in Perpetuity February 1955
Saxa Vord Restrictive rights in Perpetuity March 1960
Rona and Raasay Isles Restrictive rights Terminable April 1961
Craigowl Hill Restrictive rights Terminable February 1962
Skipness Restrictive rights Terminable February 1963
Aultbea Restrictive rights Terminable October 1963
Blackdog Restrictive rights in Perpetuity February 1964
Cultybraggan Restrictive rights in Perpetuity November 1966
Benbecula Restrictive rights Terminable September 1967
Burntisland Restrictive rights in Perpetuity December 1967
South Uist Restrictive rights Terminable November 1968
Covesea Restrictive rights in Perpetuity December 1968
Uig Restrictive rights in Perpetuity June 1969
Wick Restrictive rights Terminable November 1969
Machrihanish Restrictive rights Terminable December 1971
Eskdalemuir Restrictive rights Terminable September 1972
Crimond Restrictive rights in Perpetuity June 1973
Clyinder Restrictive rights in Perpetuity October 1973
Applecross Restrictive rights in Perpetuity October 1974
Rosneath Restrictive rights in Perpetuity November 1975
St. Kilda Restrictive rights Terminable April 1976
Castlelaw Restrictive rights Terminable September 1977
Barry Buddon Restrictive rights in Perpetuity March 1978
Perth Restrictive rights Terminable April 1981
North Uist Restrictive rights in Perpetuity May 1981
Aviemore Restrictive rights Terminable November 1982
Charterhall Restrictive rights Terminable May 1985
Strathallen Restrictive rights Terminable August 1986
Drymen Restrictive rights in Perpetuity March 1987


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