Royal Marines move to Plymouth 'not value for money'
MOVING commandos down from Scotland under plans to create a Royal Marines 'super-base' in the Plymouth area did not "represent value for money" according to the Government.
Explaining the reasons for the U-turn over re-locating 45 Commando from Arbroath to the region, ministers said it did not make economic sense "at this stage".
However this echoed the stance taken by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond who stopped short of ruling out the Scottish-based commandos making the move at some point in the future.
The Secretary of State told MPs at Westminster earlier this week that 45 Commando would remain in Arbroath for "the foreseeable future".
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It had been planned for around 800 Marines and 200 support staff to move to the region in 2016.
One option raised as part of a potential consolidation of naval training sites was relocating 45 Commando to HMS Raleigh in Torpoint.
Plymouth is already home to Stonehouse-based 3 Commando Brigade, 42 Commando at Bickleigh, and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery at the Citadel.
And plans are under way to bring Royal Marines' amphibious facilities together at Devonport from their current bases in Poole, in Dorset, and at Turnchapel.
Defence Minister Lord Astor was asked about the decision to keep 45 Commando in Scotland by former Tavistock MP and Royal Marine Lord John Burnett.
Lord Astor said: "We investigated the feasibility of the move to the south-west but that option did not, at this stage, represent value for money and Arbroath is not needed for Army basing in Scotland.
"It is my understanding that 45 Commando is very happy with this decision."
The change of heart on re-locating 45 Commando for the time being will inevitably fuel speculation that the reason is more political, coming ahead of the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
But informed observers also believe it could be linked to the complex logistics of the move to the South West. Naval training is currently carried out at both HMS Raleigh, for ratings, and the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, for officers.
Bringing this together on a single site is set to cost time and significant amounts of money, as well as adapting facilities for the arrival of the Royal Marines.
Devonport-based ships were scrapped and city sailors' jobs lost as part of the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2011.
It was hoped the impact of the SDSR would be offset by the region gaining the Scottish-based Marines.