No reprieve for Scottish regiments in Army shake-up

The fears of many in Scotland were realised today as Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed that the Black Watch, despite its recent costly deployment near the Iraqi capital Baghdad, is to be merged with the rest of the Scottish Division.

The amalgamation will see The Royal Scots and The Kings Own Scottish Borderers folded into a single battalion, which, along with the Black Watch, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Highlanders and the Royal Highland Fusiliers, will form a new single-cap badge unit, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The announcement comes as part of a "radical modernisation" of the Army's structure, which sees the number of infantry battalions fall from 40 to 36 and several historic regiments folded into larger units.

Scottish politicians of all hues reacted with anger to the news, most notably Annabelle Ewing, SNP MP for Perth, who was ejected from the Chamber of the House of Commons after branding the Defence Secretary a "backstabbing coward". When asked by the Deputy Speaker to withdraw the remark she refused and was then ordered to leave. Ms Ewing's three parliamentary party colleagues immediately followed her from the Chamber in support.

Unrepentant, Ms Ewing later stood by her comments, saying: "I have every respect for the Deputy Speaker, but absolutely no respect for a shameful minister who has put Scottish soldiers in the line of fire and then stabbed them in the back.

Ms Ewing, articulating the feelings of many Scottish soldiers, veterans and their families, continued: “Hoon is a disgrace to his office and deserves nothing but contempt for this cowardly decision. To cast aside the regimental structure is an act of political vandalism made more appalling by the fact it is purely cost driven and the result of defence cuts. It is bad for the troops, bad for their families and an insult to Scotland.”

SNP Leader Alex Salmond offered his full support to Ms Ewing, saying: “Annabelle Ewing’s words were absolutely true. It is not her who should not have been ordered from the House of Commons, but the Defence Secretary who should be drummed out of office. Annabelle Ewing has broken the rules but Geoff Hoon has broken the hearts of Scottish soldiers.”

Conservative Shadow Secretary of State Peter Duncan pledged that his party would reverse the decision if elected. He said: "The fight to save Scotland's regiments is not over, it is just getting started.

"This act of lunacy must be reversed, and it will be reversed by the Conservatives."

Mr Hoon has promised that each regiment would retain its identity within the new structure, but this seems unlikely to appease many of his critics.

Five soldiers of the Black Watch battle group lost their lives while on duty in Iraq.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

28 March 2013
Record High For Scotland's Renewable Energy
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has said Scotland generated 7% more renewable energy in 2012 than the previous year. In its latest report, it said 14,600 Gigawatt hours were generated in Scotland from renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro.
18 October 2011
Fox 'Broke Ministerial Code' Report Will Say
A Government report is expected to find that former Defence Secretary Liam Fox broke the Ministerial Code in his dealings with his friend Adam Werritty, However, the report, being compiled by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, is also expected to claim Mr Fox did not gain financially from the arrangements or his controversial dealings and trips t
06 October 2009
Drugs Misuse 'Too Great To Ignore'
Reducing the number of problem drug misusers and disrupting the illicit drugs market can bring huge social and economic benefits to Scotland, Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing said today.
13 September 2012
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox Calls For Radical Tax Cuts
The government should cut taxes in an effort to stimulate economic growth, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said. Fox used an interview in the Time newspaper to call for capital gains tax to be suspended for three years. He also added that employment laws should be reformed, making it easier to hire and fire employees.
08 April 2014
Lord Robertson: Scottish Independence 'Cataclysmic' For The West
The former secretary general of Nato Lord Robertson has said that a Yes vote in September for the Scottish independence would threaten the stability of the wider world and would be cataclysmic for the West in an era of international turmoil.