Independence opportunity to save historic units

Independence will secure the future of Scotland’s historic regimental units the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson MP, said as the Tories were challenged over the latest threat to the future of Scottish battalions.

Mr Robertson said the Tories could not be trusted on defence as reports in the Sunday press suggest the PM may intervene over MoD plans to axe more Scottish recruited units under plans which would see Scotland's historic regimental names disappear.

The SNP highlighted the Tories commitment – set out when the previous Labour government amalgamated Scotland’s historic regiments – that a Conservative government would reinstate Scotland’s six regiments. At the time, the Tory Shadow Scotland Secretary said: "A Conservative government will reverse any Scottish regiment cuts made by Hoon, Brown and Blair. We will reinstate six distinct Scottish regiments. All Labour offers is a cap badge and a war memorial. We will save the Scottish six."

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“The scrapping of the regimental names would be the ultimate betrayal of Scotland’s historic units – it would also completely fly in the face of promises by the Tories when they were in opposition that they would reinstate Scottish army units.

“The decimation of Scotland’s conventional defence capacity under successive Westminster governments cannot go unchallenged – enough is enough.

“With independence, we will keep the current unit names and tradition - and should the worst happen and these units be scrapped by the Tories, an SNP Government in an independent Scotland will reinstate them as part of a modern, properly equipped, conventional Scottish Defence Force.

"Instead of the anti-independence parties scrapping Scotland's regimental tradition and dumping Trident on Scotland, with independence we will keep the historic units and get rid of Trident."

“After promising to reinstate Scotland’s historic regiments the Tories are now running down our armed forces even more.

“It brings into sharp focus the shocking decline of Scottish recruited units and starkly exposes the extent to which the UK Government are running-down Scotland's defence capabilities. In contrast to the need for a well funded conventional defence presence in Scotland, the reality is completely the opposite. For over a decade Scotland has been short changed, losing more than 10,500 defence jobs and enduring a £5.6billion underspend.

"We can make better defence decisions in Scotland and not leave it to London."

Notes:

Details of the Tories commitment to reinstate Scottish regiments are detailed below:

The Scotsman – 12 December 2003
Peter Duncan MP – Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said: "I have real worries about this - it seems clear to most that this is purely a smokescreen for further cuts to the armed services. The announcement will do nothing to reassure the Black Watch, the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers that they have a future. This is a time when Scots would be far happier for these famous regiments to be strengthened, not weakened or even disbanded, and I am seeking immediate clarification on the proposals."

The Scotsman – 24 September 2004
Speaking after a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Murdo Fraser MSP urged all those opposed to the cuts to campaign for the retention of Scotland's six regiments. Mr Fraser said: “It would be an act of the most supreme betrayal for politicians at home to decide to extinguish these very regiments whose men are risking their lives in defence of our interests. To be seeking to reduce the size of our infantry appears to be absolute madness.”Fraser added: "I appreciate this matter is reserved to Westminster but the Scottish regiments have both an economic and, through their military heritage, cultural importance.
So I think the Scottish Parliament should be properly debating this and the Scottish Executive should have an interest in the matter."

Scottish Parliament Debate – 23 September 2004 David Mundell MSP:
“Devolved issues clearly do flow from any decision to cut our regiments—the economic issues to which Murdo Fraser and others have referred. These days, we are all familiar with the formulas produced by DTZ Pieda Consulting, and other organisations, that extrapolate the direct jobs that are lost during such changes and the wider impact on the community. There is no doubt that the closure of barracks and the implied changes will have that kind of economic effect, particularly in parts of rural Scotland.

“This Parliament also has a responsibility in relation to cultural matters. During the summer, when my colleague Peter Duncan MP and I gathered signatures for a petition to save the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots, I was struck by the depth of feeling for the regiments in our communities across Scotland. It was not just the usual suspects in the shape of former service people who came forward; it was people from all sections of our community. They value the contribution that has been made by people from their community. Like John Swinney, they have passed by the war memorials in their communities. They know the sacrifice that has been made and they do not want to see it just brushed aside. That is why so many people have signed the many petitions raised by ex-servicemen and politicians. Indeed, 10,000 people have signed our petition, which we will present to 10 Downing Street on 4 October.

“It would be good if we were able to get cross-party consensus on the case for Scotland's regiments. However, we must be clear on what the bottom line is of other people who are making the case. Peter Duncan and I have volunteered to sign a petition orchestrated by the Labour MP Russell Brown if he will tell us what his bottom line is. It is clear to me that the bottom line for people who are signing our petition is not a cap-badge arrangement where the name is kept but the entire structure is removed. We must be clear on that, because I agree with John Home Robertson that Labour MPs from Scotland will have a pivotal role in determining the final decision. It will be the strength of their backbone in standing up to the UK Government that will determine the outcome. Let us hope that they have that backbone.”
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=4531

Press and Journal – 2 October 2004
Tories pledge to reinstate Scottish regiments: Shadow Scottish secretary Peter Duncan said: "I pledge that a Conservative government will reverse any Scottish regiment cuts made by Hoon, Brown and Blair," he said. "We will reinstate six distinct Scottish regiments.
All Labour offers is a cap badge and a war memorial. We will save the Scottish six." On Monday, Mr Duncan led a delegation to No 10 Downing Street to deliver a petition signed by 20,000 campaigners.

Daily Telegraph – 7 October 2004
Commenting on news that the Royal Scots, the oldest infantry regiment, was to disappear as a result of sweeping defence cuts that will see Scotland's regiments amalgamated, Peter Duncan MP - the shadow Scottish secretary - said: "These cuts are unnecessary, dangerous and vindictive. They are a slap in the face to Scotland's servicemen and women and another example of Labour's savage cuts. We will reverse them."

The Scotsman – 27 October 2004
Peter Duncan - Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “The proposal to abolish our six regiments and merge them into a single Scottish regiment is appallingly ill-judged. From a military point of view, our forces have been engaged in multiple conflicts and peacekeeping operations in recent years, including right now in Iraq. Moreover, our regimental structure is envied the world over, so given these considerations it is beyond me why Labour are so intent on abolishing the regiments. It is a gross betrayal of the brave troops who are battling for Britain as we speak. Telling them that they are unwanted is no kind of message to be sending."

Daily Mail – 5 February 2008
Shadow Scotland Secretary David Mundell MP said: “The Government just ignored what people had to say about the impact that creating the Royal Regiment of Scotland would have on recruitment. And that has all been proven to be correct - there is no doubt that the merging of the Scottish regiments into one regiment and loosening those traditional ties has had a serious effect on recruitment.”