On Sunday I joined many people across Clackmannanshire and Stirling to pay respect to the service men and women who have sacrificed their lives in conflict over the years by laying wreaths at Remembrance ceremonies in Alloa and Bridge of Allan. It was good to see such large turnouts at both ceremonies where people took the opportunity to stand in tribute of those who have, and continue to sacrifice their lives and freedom so that we may have ours.
Remembrance Day focuses attention on our war memorials and while so many communities take great care of local memorials, upkeep can be expensive. I'd like to highlight the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund which was launched in 2013 to allow communities undertake necessary renovations on local war memorials and I'd encourage anyone with a project that could benefit from the fund to get in touch with the War Memorials Trust.
Scotland is a society that holds the members of our armed forces in high esteem. Communities like Stirling have a long and proud history with the military. Many of our military sites stretch back hundreds of years and are deeply embedded into local communities.
On Monday evening, the Secretary of State for Defence announced his plans to reduce the size of the defence estate. His announcement was long anticipated and followed a period of extreme uncertainty in many communities across Scotland - however, the scale of the cuts in Scotland are much harsher than expected. The defence secretary confirmed eight sites for disposal, reducing the size of the defence estate by almost a fifth.
Scotland's defence footprint has been hollowed out through successive cuts, so the severity of this fresh round of cuts comes as a shock. It also comes just three years after Philip Hammond announced the last army basing plan, billed as offering stability and certainty. Those recent commitments to Scotland have, for the most part, been disregarded.
Locally, Meadowforth Barracks, Stirling, where the defence and security vehicle maintenance unit is based has been marked for closure with a loss of 220 jobs. This will bring to an end a long and historic direct connection between Stirling and the military and be a huge blow to the local economy.
The Scottish Government does not accept that Monday's announcement is the end of the story, and I will work closely with the local authorities that are most directly affected to agree next steps. I am also keen to work with parliamentarians from all parties, as there is a clear interest throughout the chamber in retaining a strong defence footprint across Scotland.
Conservative MSPs constantly ask the SNP to work with the UK Government, however, they have nothing to say when the Government they support refuses to do just that. It was disappointing that instead of challenging the UK Conservative Government's actions in the interests of their constituents, Conservative members like Alexander Stewart just toed the line and stuck to the script of the UK Government. I'd like to ask him, and other Conservative members to get behind the armed forces in Scotland to challenge and oppose these cuts.