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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Argylls Dead; But Irony Alive and Kicking

So, the cap badge remains but today the United Kingdom Government, Her Majesty's Government, effectively disbanded the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. At the same time, Her Majesty installed her grandson, William, as a Knight of the Order of the Thistle - the highest honour available in Scotland. Apparently.

Well, call me an old romantic but perhaps many in Scotland previously considered the highest honour available would be the opportunity to serve in the defence of Her Majesty's Realm alongside comrades drawn from the same part of Scotland; sharing the regimental history and all that military heritage we're told is an integral part of the positive case for Union; rather than having the good fortune to enter the world via the birth canal of Charles' concubine of the moment.

However, as Her Majesty's Government seems intent on denying young Scots that opportunity in the future, I look forward to the announcement of a compensatory apprenticeship scheme that focuses on medal and sash making - allowing us to keep up with the demand for honours amongst Liz's immediate family.

The British Army, in 1978, numbered around 160,000. By the time these new measures are fully in effect, it will have shrunk to around 80,000. During this transformation, Scotland's infantry regiments have been decimated - the reward for three hundred years of service to the Union.

Now, perhaps we should be thankful that the world is in such fine fettle that we no longer need such troop numbers. That would be a matter of celebration for all. But it's never that simple is it? In fact, for all the politician's talk about these changes being about the effectiveness of the military instead of cost-saving; it is indeed completely about cost-saving.

At the moment, we have just over 100,000 personnel in the Regular Army with 15,000 Reservists. A total of 115,000.

Under the new plans, we'll have the 80,000 Regulars and 30,000 Reservists. Or 110,000.

So the world isn't safer. The MOD has virtually the same amount of firepower to call on when the next Iraq blows up, it just gets it on the cheap! So, Syria and Iran should not take any comfort from these announcements - we might still be coming for you next!

Of course, we have other priorities requiring funding, so it may be a little harsh to criticise the Government. After all, aircraft carriers with no aircraft and upgraded weapons of mass destruction don't pay for themselves, do they?

Although in an age when we're constantly reminded that the real future threats to this country are from terrorist organisations and not other states, it's unclear what use Trident will be. Or aircraft carriers - even if they had planes on the deck.

Luckily an independent Scotland won't have Trident or aircraft carriers. So, perhaps, we might be able to pay for a few more actual soldiers (perhaps even reconstituting the Scottish regiments); hopefully making us safer from those dastardly terrorists.

Unfortunately not, it seems. As both The Herald and The Scotsman very helpfully told us this week, an independent Scotland would be particularly susceptible to a 9/11 style attack because we might not be able to afford the most sophisticated fighter aircraft. Funny, but I'm sure the Americans had the world's most sophisticated aircraft and air defence systems. Wonder what went wrong?

Because the Scottish quality(?) press can't be wrong. Can they?


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