My Department meets regularly with the Ministry of Defence to help raise concerns that are specific to Scotland. British armed forces personnel in Scotland play a crucial role in defending the whole of the United Kingdom, keeping us safe both at home and abroad, and assisting with such dedication at the height of this covid-19 pandemic.
I welcome the landmark £24 billion investment in our UK armed forces, as announced by the Prime Minister just last month, bringing economic and security benefits to all four nations of our great United Kingdom. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree, therefore, that this demonstrates the true value of the Union to Scotland, bringing jobs to Scotland, enhancing the security of the nation, and delivering on the Prime Minister’s levelling-up agenda across the country?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Scotland has always played a crucial role in the UK’s defence, and the projects that are supported by this spending, including shipbuilding on the Clyde, will directly benefit the people of Scotland, bringing security and economic benefits. This level of spending and investment is only possible through Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.
I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s response, but can he set out what support the British Army is providing to the Scottish Government to ensure the efficient delivery of the coronavirus vaccine in my constituency in the borders, but also across Scotland more widely?
The Scottish Government requested a military planning team to assist with the planning for the roll-out of the vaccine in the borders and across Scotland, and I am very pleased that I was able to approve that request. The scale of the task is very considerable, but the logistics expertise with the British armed forces is making a huge difference.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the work that soldiers from Kinloss barracks in Moray have done throughout this pandemic in our fight against covid-19: they have been in Liverpool since last month, and earlier this week started assisting Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council in its community testing programme. This is in addition to the work they did throughout the highlands in the summer, covering 80,000 miles and conducting well over 3,000 tests. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating everyone at Kinloss on the effort they have put in during this pandemic, and agree that it underlines yet again the outstanding work they do in Scotland and across the United Kingdom?
I absolutely join my hon. Friend in thanking everyone at Kinloss barracks. At the start of the pandemic our British armed forces distributed essential equipment and personal protective equipment. They helped build hospitals across Scotland and were instrumental in getting vital equipment to the Glasgow lighthouse lab. They operated the mobile testing centres, and, currently, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont), there are 21 military planners working with Scottish health boards and the Scottish Government on logistical planning for vaccine deployment. Our offer remains open: if the Scottish Government require further assistance from our amazing armed forces, they are standing by and are ready to help.