A Scottish Conservative MP has warned that axing The Black Watch would sever the local links that ensure Britain boasts the “best army in the world”.
Andrew Bowie spoke out following reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering scrapping the famous battalion, which is based at Fort George and traditionally recruited from the Tayside and Fife areas.
Writing for us, the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP reminded the government that regional identities were of fundamental importance to the armed forces, and “we lose this at our peril”.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was “considering the implications” of a decision to move to a one-year spending review, following reports in The Sun that the military had been told Britain can no longer justify a total of 30 infantry battalions.
It was claimed units such as The Black Watch were under threat because they had struggled to fill their ranks.
Any move to axe the battalion, which wears the famous Red Hackle and is also known as 3 Scots, would break a 2016 promise from the then-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who said The Black Watch was “going to be with us forever”.
‘British Army has no parallel’
In his article, Mr Bowie urged his colleagues in the UK Government to think very carefully before proceeding with such a cost-cutting measure.
He states: “The army must adapt, to evolve to face the pressures and challenges of the mid-21st Century.
“But we lose more than a name when we lose a regiment or a battalion — we lose a part of who we are as a region, as a nation.”
Mr Bowie added: “The British Army is the best army in the world. It has no parallel. It is so for many reasons, but not least because of its links to regions and communities across the country made possible because of the local links through regiments and battalions, bringing their own identity and history to a greater whole. We lose this at our peril.”
An MoD spokesman said: “This government has committed to grow defence spending. In light of the decision to move to a one-year spending review, we are considering the implications for the completion of the integrated review, and will provide an update in due course.”