The Tory party have been attacked for breaking pledges to restore Scottish regiments disbanded under the last Labour administration.
Despite promising to “reinstate six distinct Scottish regiments” cut by the last Labour government, today’s announcement of further cuts included the downgrading of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (pictured).
In a statement to the UK Parliament, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that the first four battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will now reduce by about 100 to 450 men each. The cuts to the Royal Regiment of Scotland will leave Scotland with a smaller infantry than that of the Irish Republic.
The downgrading of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders means that it will shrink to a company of about 120 men, performing ceremonial duties outside Edinburgh Castle and elsewhere.
SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“Having already cut military personnel numbers in Scotland by 27 per cent over recent years, compared to 11 per cent across the UK as a whole, these further cuts again hit Scotland disproportionately.
“While the retention of cap badges is welcome, cuts to capabilities leave Scotland with a smaller infantry than that of the Irish Republic.
“We have had smoke and mirrors from the Defence Secretary and we must have more detail on, for example, what the established strength of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will be under these plans. And, given his suggestion that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will be made up of personnel from other battalions, whether this means the unit is effectively being disbanded.”
The cutbacks come despite admissions from Tory Ministers that Scotland had suffered disproportionate fallout from previous defence cutbacks. It also follows pledges from senior Conservatives to protect the Scottish defence footprint and to re-instate six regiments previously axed by the former Labour Government.
Mr Robertson attacked the broken pledges and added:
“With the Tories having broken their promises to restore Scotland’s six infantry regiments it is clear that nobody can trust a word Westminster say on defence.
“At a time when Westminster politicians are busy scaremongering over Scotland’s defence prospects, decisions like this show exactly why Scotland would be better off making defence decisions ourselves and not leaving it to London.”
The Defence Secretary defended the cuts by claiming the last Labour Government has left a situation that had to be dealt with.
Mr Hammond said:
“After inheriting a massive overspend from the last government, we have had to make tough decisions to implement our vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible armed forces.
“After a decade of enduring operations, we need to transform the Army and build a balanced, capable and adaptable force ready to face the future.
“Army 2020 will create a more flexible and agile Army. Unlike the past, it will be set on a firm foundation of men and material, well trained, well equipped and fully funded.
“The regimental system will remain the bedrock of the Army’s fighting future.”
Labour’s shadow defence spokesman Jim Murphy painted a picture of an unstable world and said: “New threats are emerging and weak and failing states outnumber strong by two to one.
“There’s an arc of instability from west African states to central and south-east Asia. Non-state actors are on the rise, climate and population change are new sources of tension. The United States is pivoting towards the Pacific, while the European end of Nato will take greater strain.”
The East Renfrewshire MP added: “Jobs and military capability have been lost and tradition and history have been sacrificed. This isn’t just a smaller Army, it’s also a less powerful Army in a less influential nation. Our armed forces and their families deserve better.”