more speculation: now 'Gurkhas face Hoon cuts'

Scotland on Sunday
Sun 12 Dec 2004

Gurkha forces face Hoon cuts

MoD considers axing historic Nepal regiment instead of further Scots one


DEFENCE Secretary Geoff Hoon is considering whether to slash a regiment of Gurkhas in a dramatic move that could shield Scotland from further punishment under the government’s looming reforms of the British Army.

Army chiefs have told Hoon that he must consider sacrificing half of the historic Nepalese soldiers who have served the UK loyally for generations if he is to meet the target of shaving four regiments to meet his blueprint for the British forces in the 21st century.

An assault on the Gurkhas, who had originally been left out of the cutback plans, would risk provoking a huge public outcry in support of a force which has served in every :?: operation and campaign, except Northern Ireland, in the past five decades.

But it is one of a limited number of options presented to Hoon by the Executive Committee of the Army Council (ECAB) which met in London last week to finalise its proposals for restructuring the infantry. The proposal could protect Scotland from losing another regiment, on top of the one expected to go when Hoon announces his final plans to parliament this week.

Ministry of Defence sources last night confirmed long-standing expectations that Hoon would rubber-stamp plans to transform the six regiments of the Scottish Division.

It is believed the Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borderers will be merged and downgraded to a battalion. The remaining four regiments - including the Black Watch - will keep their names but also be reduced to battalions. Together the five battalions will form a Scottish ‘super-regiment’.

The Defence Secretary’s allies maintain that he has been a moderating influence during the restructuring process, insisting that "the Army chiefs themselves just wanted to get rid of the whole lot [of the doomed regiments] but he’s told them they have to keep their historical connections".

Hoon and Tony Blair will attempt to claim credit for preserving individual regimental identities within the new Scottish regiment by keeping their traditional cap badges, hackles and other distinctive traditions. The Black Watch and its fellow units in the Scottish division will be renamed the 1st to 5th battalions, Scottish Regiment, but cling on to their existing regimental names, in brackets after their official titles.

The reduction of one Scottish regiment, along with one each from the King’s, and Prince of Wales’s divisions, was agreed unanimously by ECAB, chaired by the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson. But in their struggle to find a fourth candidate they decided that the only options were to take one more from Scotland or the King’s Division, or one from the Queen’s Division, all of which would create an outcry.

The Gurkha option has therefore been presented to Hoon as an alternative to cutting a fourth regiment. The Gurkha Brigade has been gradually reduced over recent years, and it currently consists of 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR), based at Shorncliffe, Kent, while 2 RGR are in Brunei. The regiment also provides one reinforcement company to the Highlanders :?: and the majority of the manpower for the two demonstration companies, at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and the Infantry Training Centre Wales. They are not normally included on the roster of the UK’s trained regular army.

The government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn earlier this year after a high-profile campaign against its refusal to offer citizenship rights to former Gurkhas.
and of course,dramatically slashes a pensions bill as well?

Yes, that is my tinfoil hat

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