Black Watch Assoc Members call for colonels resigntation

By Mike Donachie

RETIRED SOLDIERS of The Black Watch rebelled against their leader on Saturday, as they demanded his resignation in a stormy meeting in Perth.

Lieutenant-General Sir Alistair Irwin, Colonel of the Regiment, was the focus of anger at the annual general meeting of the Black Watch Association—the body representing former soldiers—at the Lovat Hotel in Perth.

Association members called for Sir Alistair to express public opposition to the coming merger of all Scottish regiments, a move which has caused huge anger in the uniformed community and sparked ongoing campaigns.

Under armed forces rules, any serving soldier speaking out on the issue faces disciplinary action and risks losing his or her pension, but association members yesterday seized on the fact Sir Alistair has just retired from active service.

An association member—whose name has been withheld at his request—said anger had been brewing against Sir Alistair, who is also president of the regimental association, following his role in the process which led to the merger announcement.

As a senior figure in the army in Scotland, Sir Alistair was involved in the decision-making process and some campaigners have asked how hard he fought to save the regiment.

The former soldier said, “We had the meeting as usual and, when it came to ‘any other competent business’, one officer stood up and said that now that General Irwin is a retired officer, there’s no problem with him being disciplined or losing his pension. He was asked to come clean on his involvement with this action of merging or cutting the Scottish regiments.

“He was asked, now that he was free of any military discipline, would he not stand up and help us to fight off these cuts and mergers and amalgamations? He didn’t reply.”

The argument continued with demands for Sir Alistair to stand down from his post as regimental colonel, finally made to the meeting as a formal proposal, which was seconded.

However, it was explained that procedures demanded such a proposal be presented formally, with notice, and it could not be voted upon or passed on Saturday.

The retired soldier continued, “The whole of the regiment has been fighting a strong campaign on this. We’re really fighting the case for the serving soldiers who are not allowed to talk.”

He added, “General Irwin is a wounded man.”

The meeting was attended by more than 50 people, including the Lord Lieutenants of Fife and Perth and Kinross.

The Black Watch Association involves old soldiers from across Britain, and the annual meeting brings together several smaller groups to conduct business and hold social occasions.

Attempts to contact Sir Alistair for his comments were unsuccessful.

He did, however, defend himself at the meeting, pointing out the decision on the merger was not his, and last night a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence insisted the merger was decided “at the highest level.”
At least now he knows how much resentment there is towards his involvement in the decision.

What does stand out to my eyes is his denial of any involvement in the decision, and says it was taken by a higher authority (presumably the MOD). And yet the govt have strongly denied that they had any part to play in the decision, stating that it was ultimately an army decision. Take note of the last sentence. The MOD have insited that the decision was taken at the highest levels. Does this suggest that the decision was a political one rather than an army one? Have they finally let it slip?


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