A former soldier MSP has blasted defence chiefs for cutting the historic Black Watch battalion in half.
Paul Sweeney, a former Royal Regiment of Scotland reservist, said the recent Army reshuffle would cut a swathe through the famous unit, based at Fort George, near Inverness.
The news comes as Black Watch troops were this week deployed to deal with the aftermath of Storm Arwen across Grampian.
Last week, we revealed that the Black Watch – which traditionally recruits from Tayside, Fife and Angus – was to move from their current base back to their heartland in Leuchars in 2029.
Scottish Labour’s armed forces and veterans spokesman Paul Sweeney MSP said: “The famous Black Watch battalion, also known as 3 Scots, will also lose over half their established strength as they reduce to just two companies as a ‘Security Force Assistance Battalion’ based at Leuchars.
“There will also be a real-terms cut in revenue funding in the next four years. That means less money for forces recruitment, training, pay and families.
“It means a possible cut of four in every ten pounds for the budget of the office for veterans affairs.”
The Black Watch spearheaded the British campaign in Afghanistan. The sacrifice of the soldiers and their families was highlighted in our recent investigation Afghanistan: The stories of Scotland’s forgotten war.
Mr Sweeney added: “Since it was created in 2006, the Royal Regiment of Scotland has already lost the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders battalion, aka 5 Scots in 2012, after it was reduced to a single ceremonial company based at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.
“The regiment has also now lost three of its seven pipe bands, which showcase Scotland to the world, including at the iconic Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
“The Tories have decimated the British Army over the last decade. Labour are committed to reversing these disastrous cuts to the Army in Scotland, improving the career terms and conditions offered to serving soldiers, and ensuring that the Royal Regiment of Scotland is restored to a full fighting strength of five regular and two reserve infantry battalions.”
An Army spokesman said: “Scotland will gain a regular major unit and Future Soldier will also see a higher proportion of the British Army based in Scotland.
“This provides an opportunity for more Scottish soldiers to be based nearer home, whilst delivering a broader range of exciting roles.
“The new 1st Battalion Ranger Regiment was formed from 1 Scots on 1 Dec 2021.
“The new Battalion will carry forward the renowned reputation, ethos and spirit of the Army’s oldest Battalion.
“1st Battalion Ranger Regiment will be affiliated with the Union Division of infantry to ensure that Scottish infantry soldiers have the opportunity to serve in this new and exciting role.”