What Future for the Gallant Forty-Twa?

There is no denying that the Coalition cuts are hitting the UK hard as a whole, with the pension strikes taking place across the UK and the rise of tuition fees in England. However, once again Scottish defence is coming under fire.

In the past 10 years our famed regiments have been merged into one, creating the Royal Regiment of Scotland and bringing an end to centuries of history. Not to mention our great past with the RAF being hit hard, with us losing two RAF Bases: RAF Kinloss and most recently RAF Leuchars. This is the same base that has just spent millions refurbishing its runway in preparation for the arrival of the new Typhoons. Lossiemouth, which will now become home to the Typhoons, will be spending extra money in updating its runway in the midst of an economic recession. This recession has resulted in Scotland having an approximate 30% cut to its Defence opposed to the UK average of 10%.

But it’s not only the land and skies that are being left defenceless; the Navy in Scotland, which is also facing cuts, is only made up of four unarmed fishery vessels and a nuclear submarine, with not a single maritime patrol ship. This issue was highlighted last year when a powerful storm forced a Russian ship to take refuge in the Moray Firth. Under maritime law it is required that foreign ships should be shadowed by a domestic vessel, but because of disproportionate military spending, the closest available ship that Westminster could send was in Portsmouth. Twenty-four hours later the vessel arrived to shadow the Russians.

Perhaps we can get over the past defence cuts. After all, there is still one RAF Base and the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Unfortunately, the Strategic Defence Review plans on reducing the Royal Regiment further. Last year “rumours” were circulating in the Scotsman stating that the Blackwatch, nicknamed the Forty-Twa, was under threat and that the Royal Marines in Arbroath were going to “go home” to the South of England. They were denied by the MoD at the time, however it has now been announced that these rumours are at least partially true. The famed Black Watch Battalion will be merged with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders just a year after their 200th Birthday. There was already massive discontent among the Scottish public when Tony Blair relegated the famous “Forty-Twa’s” status from Regiment to Battalion along with the other regiments, but now it would seem its future form is also in doubt.

At least the two battalions will continue to exist which is more that can be said about the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who will be scrapped, joining the recently disbanded Lowland Gunners. Also very likely to be disbanded is our historic regiment the Scots Guard stationed in Yorkshire; ending centuries of tradition but more importantly signalling the mass loss of jobs. The only Battalion that looks like it will remain the same after the Defence Review is the Highlanders, although they too are an amalgamation of the 200 year old Gordon Highlanders and the more youthful Camerons and Seathforths.

4,200 Army personnel will be made redundant next month, 2,900 of which are likely to be from the battalions returning from Germany such as the soon to be defunct Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, joining the 2 out of 3 RAF Bases in Scotland. Scotland contributes an estimated 3 billion pounds a year to the UK Defence budget and gets just under 2 billion back, and this number is evidently going down. What now for future of Scottish Service men and the tartan of the gallant forty-twa?

Lucas McGregor-Paas
President of the Edinburgh University Scottish Nationalist Association

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About Lucas McGregor-Paas

Lucas was born in Germany as a Dual-National Citizen between the UK and Germany. Educated at the High School of Dundee, ironically spending 6 years at a Private School has made him a passionate Social Democrat who opposes all forms of privatisation of public services. He is currently studying at Edinburgh University and was recently elected the President of the Edinburgh University Scottish Nationalist Association.

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