Statement call over regimental about-turn

The SNP has called for the Defence Secretary to make a statement to parliament following reports that the UK Government has backed down over proposals to abolish Scotland’s historic regimental names and cap badges.

After refusing to rule-out the further amalgamation and disbandment of Scottish raised units when pressed earlier in the week, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said the Defence Secretary had to answer questions over “capabilities as well as cap badges” that would be retained.

The apparent about-turn by the Ministry of Defence came within hours of the SNP, Labour and the LibDems issuing a cross-party call for the UK Government to ‘Respect our Regiments’, and comes ahead of a debate on the issue in Westminster sponsored by SNP MP Pete Wishart who represents the home base of the Black Watch.

Mr Robertson said:

“While welcoming the Defence Secretary’s apparent about-turn on plans to abolish Scotland’s historic regimental names, we must now have assurances over capabilities as well as cap badges.

“Given the disproportionate personnel cuts and the defence underspend that Scotland has already endured, this is just as much an issue about boots on the ground as it is about traditions and identity.

“As the MoD have just confirmed, less than 3 per cent of regular army units are now stationed in Scotland – that is just 4 of 148 major regular army units.

“The UK Government is creating enormous uncertainty for our defence communities and Philip Hammond must come to parliament and make clear what his intentions are.

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

“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.”

Perth and North Perthshire MP, Pete Wishart, who has secured a debate on the issue next Wednesday, added:

“MoD briefings in the press contradict claims by the Defence Secretary earlier this week that there would be structural changes – we must have clarity from the government on the future of Scottish recruited units.

“It is clear that proposals to merge the names of the Black Watch and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are a cack-handed attempt to mask MoD cuts to the army in Scotland and an insult to centuries of Scottish military history.

“The Defence Secretary himself should set the record straight on the future of our proud regiments.”