Betrayed: Blair bows to plan to scrap Scots regiments

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Line_Grunt, Nov 26, 2004.

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  1. Todays Scotsman

    Betrayed: Blair bows to plan to scrap Scots regiments


    WIDESPREAD anger today met news that military chiefs have sounded the death-knell for Scotland’s Army regiments.

    Generals have ignored massive protests to press ahead with plans to merge the country’s infantry into a "super-regiment".

    Under the scheme the Edinburgh-based Royal Scots - the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army - is set to be merged with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers to form one battalion of the new Scottish regiment.

    The Black Watch, which is fighting in Iraq, also faces the end of its proud independent history as part of the shake-up. Defence officials have officially backed plans to merge

    Scotland’s six regiments, and it now seems certain that the proposals will be given the go-ahead by the Government.

    Politicians and campaigners today voiced their anger and dismay at the news.

    A defence source said the Army Board has decided there can no longer be single battalion regiments, although a meeting to confirm the decision is expected to be held on December 6. The source said: "The Army Board have decided . . . we can no longer have single battalion regiments. Unequivocal."

    The move marks a major blow to campaigners’ hopes of halting the overhaul of Scottish infantry, which comes as Black Watch troops fight insurgents in war-torn Iraq. It is thought Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon will announce the decision just days after the Army Board meeting when the Black Watch has finished its deployment in the infamous "Triangle of Death".

    A compromise proposal backed by Mr Blair, which would have allowed the Army to keep six regiments north of the Border, appears in tatters.

    Representatives from Scotland’s six regimental associations also hit out at the controversial plans after a meeting at the Royal Scots Club in the Capital.

    A joint statement from the associations and members of Save the Scottish Regiments Campaign, lashed out at the proposal and accused Army chiefs of having no mandate for the changes.

    The statement read: "As representatives from the Regimental Associations we unreservedly and wholeheartedly reject the proposals by the Army Board.

    "The proposals, announced by the Council of Scottish Colonels, does not have a mandate from the people it is supposed to represent, the serving soldier. Soldiers have no voice in the current process, which will decide their future, as under military law they are forbidden to take part in political debate or any form of protest.

    "Past service and sacrifices made by thousands of soldiers, both alive and dead, throughout two World Wars and various campaigns have barely been recognised, nor taken into consideration in these hastily and ill-conceived plans."

    Stuart Crawford, spokesman for Keep Our Scottish Battalions said: "If the decision follows the Ministry of Defence line, then there will be a significant political backlash in the General Election. We have never targeted the military to change the mind. This will be a political decision. The reality is 40 deployable battalions [across the UK] are better than 36."

    Colonel Robert Watson, a former Royal Scot who now lives in Balerno, said: "Which is more important a jet fighter destroyed in the 1970s or a battalion facing up to insurgents in Iraq? It is absolute total madness. The frontline in the global war of terror is infantry. There is no doubt about that."

    The groups called for the Government to carry out proper consultation with soldiers and veterans to ensure Scotland’s six regiments do not lose their identity and "their right to exist as single regiments".

    The joint statement added: "On election day we shall have a presence at every polling station throughout Scotland to remind the Scottish people of the gross betrayal of its soldiers and the willful destruction of its historic regiments, which is also perceived as an attack upon Scottish heritage and culture."

    Up to 5000 serving soldiers and veterans are also expected to march along Princes Street before a rally in the Gardens on December 18 in a bid to halt the plans.

    Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett said: "I am very concerned that the decision is being taken while our boys from the Black Watch are in the front line in Iraq.

    "I would have thought at the very least they would have delayed this decision until they get back. The troops need to be thinking about nothing else than the job they are doing, certainly not the future of their regiment. This decision appears to have been taken a long time ago and the consultation exercise has been a sham."

    Mr Barrett has the first question to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in the House of Commons on Monday and will raise the question of the future of the Black Watch and the other regiments.

    Scottish National Party chief whip Pete Wishart, whose North Tayside constituency is in the heart of the Black Watch’s recruiting area, said: "This latest news exposes the sham of the consultation exercise.

    "It will finally be a political decision taken by Geoff Hoon and Tony Blair. They have an opportunity to reverse the decision to scrap the Scottish regiments.

    However, I fear that long ago the decision was taken to get rid of the proud history and traditions of the Scottish regiments. This whole thing has been a set-up. The Government wanted to get rid of the proud Scottish regimental history, that is what is going to happen."
  2. and

    Beginning of end when Black Watch come home


    THE men of the Black Watch who went into action in Iraq yesterday will come home to Britain within days.

    Their withdrawal from Iraq will not just mark the end of the latest dangerous mission in the 265-year-old regiment’s history. It may also signal the beginning of the end of the Black Watch as its current members know it.

    Within days of the withdrawal from Camp Dogwood, defence ministers seem certain to announce that the Black Watch will in time become nothing more than one of five battalions in a single Scottish regiment.

    For a while, the Black Watch name and the famous red hackle in their caps will persist, tacked on to the uniform of what is likely to be known as 1st Battalion, The Royal Scottish Regiment (The Black Watch).

    But within a decade, those tokens are likely to fade, as the constant churning of departures and recruiting means that soon a new generation of Scottish soldiers will arrive.

    They will not have signed up for any particular unit, just the umbrella Scots regiment. They will not spend their entire service alongside the men they meet on their first day.

    Instead, they could be shifted from battalion to battalion, depending on military need, meaning that even during a short military career, a soldier could wear the cap-badge of the Black Watch, the Highland Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

    "As a soldier, your loyalty will be to Scotland and the Scottish regiment, not to any particular battalion, whatever its history," said one senior figure involved in the modernisation yesterday.

    Breaking down the rigid boundaries between the distinct Scottish units is anathema to veterans, who say that they fought, above all for their friends and brothers in the regiments, which for so long avoided the mergers and fusions that affected the Army in England.

    Yet the move to blur the lines between regiments is at the heart of the now all-but- inevitable modernisation of the British Army structure.

    General Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of the general staff, has set himself on ending the so-called arms plot, the archaic posting system that means battalions can only move as one indivisible whole.

    Those blocks of men, and their families, are in constant motion, every two years moving between home base, training, and the frontline.

    That means that at any given moment, up to a third of the army is effectively unavailable, tied up in moving, training, re-settling. And the strain on Army families is cited by many as their reason for leaving the service.

    So Gen Jackson wants men to get a more permanent base, and from there to be able to transfer to and from other battalions as and when they’re needed, be it by the score, the dozen, or just as individuals.

    To Gen Jackson, the flexibility this will give the Army is infinitely more important than the sentimental attachment many Scots soldiers, past and present, feel for their ancient regiments.

    And if the restructuring of the Army was simply a matter for the Army, that might be the end of it: the military is not a democracy, and British soldiers will always obey the orders of their generals.

    But the reform of the Army is also an acutely political matter, not least because of the government’s decision to send the Black Watch into harm’s way in Iraq, their second tour of duty in the country.

    That deployment only stoked the fires of anger in Scotland over the regimental mergers, anger which has worried many Scottish MPs and eventually even moved Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, to act.

    Through a well-used and deniable intermediary, Mr Blair two weeks ago let it be known he wanted the military to find a compromise, a "solution" to the collision of public opinion and military logic.

    Such a solution was already on the table, a proposal from the Scottish colonels that their units could retain regimental status but pool some administrative functions in a Scottish brigade headquarters.

    The generals refused. Reform must be all or nothing. The compromise wouldn’t be fair on future recruits, leaving them, in words of one insider, "confused and muddled" about whether their loyalty was to the brigade or their regiment.

    That leaves the Prime Minister facing a stark choice: over-rule his generals and risk their wrath, or accept their plan, and anger the people of Scotland.

    Downing Street yesterday clung to its public insistence that no decision has yet been taken, insisting reports from inside the MoD were "speculation."

    Military insiders were happy to give a far more candid assessment of Mr Blair’s decision.

    "It has been made clear that the Army’s advice will be the decisive influence," said one.
  3. and finally from todays Scotsman:

    A dangerous military game

    IN A daring raid across the Euphrates, 500 soldiers of the Black Watch have wiped out a nest of Saddam loyalists who had been left intact since the very beginning of the Iraq war. A fine example of British military prowess? Undoubtedly. But it is also likely to be the swan-song of the Black Watch as an independent unit of the British Army, for yesterday it also became clear that the army senior staff are determined to go ahead with their plan to create one Scottish super-regiment, wearing a single tartan.

    This is a slap in the face for the campaign to save the Scottish regiments. The campaign is not about nostalgia: it is about rejecting the cuts in army manpower, about preserving the fighting morale that allows such professional soldiering as seen in the Black Watch operation, and about respecting the traditions and commitment of the army at a time when its serving men and women are being asked to do too much with too little.

    So why are the top brass so determined to have their way?

    Much has to do with the frictions between the army general staff and the Blair government. Mr Blair responded to the campaign to save the Scottish regiments by hinting heavily that there would be a rethink. This turns out to have been political spin. Mr Blair did nothing overt to countermand the planned restructuring, and in particular he did not order more money to be found to reverse the cuts in military manpower - cuts which should never have been made in the present dire security situation. Not surprisingly, the army high command has refused to play the patsy for this political manoeuvring. It is insisting that if the cuts go ahead, so must the streamlining of regimental and battalion structures.

    This game of political chicken is absurd and dangerous, on both sides. Even within the restructuring, the army general staff could have been more sensitive on the question of regimental traditions in Scotland. Alternatively, they could have seized on Mr Blair’s public discomfiture to mount a campaign to get the cuts reversed. On Mr Blair’s part, his public promise to think again has proved hollow; or else his ability to exert the will of the civilian branch over the military has been undermined - hardly a comforting notion. Either way, army morale in the field will suffer, there will be 10,000 fewer troops on the ground and Mr Blair’s reputation will be severely damaged.

    Now is the time for the First Minister and Scotland’s Westminster MPs to make one last attempt to persuade the Prime Minister, the MoD, the Treasury and the army to hammer out a compromise. Otherwise, the soldiers of the Black Watch will have paid a heavy price for their bravery
  4. Do we think 1 BW is going to rotate on schedule?
  5. Whatever the military reasons, Bliar has staked too much political capital in his promises to have them home by Christmas. Given that and his half-arsed attempt to dodge the Scottish ire over the BW's probable demise and the accusation that he's now stabbed them in the back by 'disbanding them while they're in Baghdad' (as the press believe), it makes it a dead cert.

    Bliar needs people to believe his promises and he will feel the need to deliver on this one. The irony is that having slopey-shouldered the original decisions by insisting the Army board had the final say, he shouldn't be too surprised when PoD has told him to f#ck off with his 'compromise' scheme to save the BW.

    Kick this sorry bunch of f###ers out pronto!
  6. Yes I think they will rotate on schedule.
  7. What very few, including the regimental secretaries, realise is that all of the Scottish regiments will have to be administratively disbanded before they can be regrouped as battalions of a new "large" regiment. Bang goes tribal area recruiting.
  8. X-Inf

    X-Inf War Hero Book Reviewer

    I think you will find that this fact is well known and recognised. I would place a bet that there is now furious work going on in the background in each Regt to ensure that the first COs and RSM are from their respective Regiments and not shuffled around to further weaken the Scottish 'mafia'.

    It will be even more so with RS & KOSB as the 1st CO and RSM will be crucial to how that Regt goes forward.

    The only good thing to come out of this is that the Regimental Colonels will lose their gravy train and be sacked leaving just one person. I am obviously not KOSB but at least their Colonel had the guts to walk out on the back stabbing (allegedly)
  9. Absolute bollox from James Kirkup of the Scotsman. At least two major errors in one sentence.
  10. Email and correct him then Hackle :D

    Or invite him here for "How to write a proper military news story 101"
  11. [quote="X-Inf The only good thing to come out of this is that the Regimental Colonels will lose their gravy train and be sacked leaving just one person. I am obviously not KOSB but at least their Colonel had the guts to walk out on the back stabbing (allegedly)[/quote]

    No argument there, X-Inf. And no "allegedly" about the KOSB representative at the 5-1 vote for amalgamation meeting. Several of the hon colonels are getting big-time stick from their associations.
  12. Good ideas, PTP

    Hopefully one or more of the campaigners will put him right. Maybe.
  13. Lads,

    Personally I think ditching the old regiments in Scotland is a mistake, but is is perhaps time to let these guys know that, short of a general downing of tools, that they have friends and we're thinking of them?

    Have a swaatch at this link and make 'em know your thoughts:

    Ah well, there's an election coming in May 2005 :wink:
  14. As I recall someone made a statement about a 'middle way' on fox hunting and look what that did! Clearly it's now the Army's turn to ignore the Dear Leader's view. :oops:
  15. Everyone is missing the point.

    We are set to lose 4 Inf Bns, all with their own antecedent history. Why are we countenancing sacrificing another better recruited regiment from south of the border to satisfy political drivers and some labour votes in Scotland?

    The campaign should be to save the best manned and recruited regiments regardless of locational origin.

    now that the touch-paper has been lit, I stand back.