The UK Government is “letting down” many servicemen and women, the SNP claimed as it published a new paper setting out changes it wants to see for the Armed Forces.
In addition to outlining changes to recruitment and retention, pay, housing and veterans issues, party defence spokesman Stewart McDonald said the plans could act as a “cornerstone” for how an independent Scotland would deal with such issues.
UK Government ministers are urged to raise the recruitment age for the forces to 18, with the paper – published on Armed Forces Day – also demanding regular reviews of pay and conditions as it notes new recruits in the forces can earn £4,000-£6,000 a year less than their counterparts in the police and fire services.
As part of efforts to deal with “outdated, run down” military housing, it suggests moving to a model where service personnel could live in their own homes “as much as possible while not on exercise”.
As well as saving cash used to maintain housing, the Modern Armed Forces report says this move would boost morale.
It also demands the Ministry of Defence goes “further and faster” with its efforts to tackle discrimination and harassment in the forces.
Mr McDonald said all the suggestions in the report are “eminently sensible and achievable now”, as he added: “I hope the Government will take them on.
“From assisting with the rollout of life-saving vaccines across Scotland to undertaking peacekeeping missions, members of the Armed Forces have quietly continued their vital work during this past unprecedented and difficult year.
“As we mark Armed Forces Day, we must go beyond the rhetoric and take steps to properly recognise the role and contribution of our forces personnel, and to address the serious challenges facing them and their families.
“For far too long, successive UK governments have failed our Armed Forces – with personnel expected to make enormous personal sacrifices in exchange for some of the worst pay and conditions offered by any European or Nato ally.
“On housing, pay, recruitment, retention, support for military families or those who leave the Armed Forces, the UK Government has let too many people who have served in uniform down.
“I hope the publication of this new report, which contains recommendations aimed at improving terms and conditions for those in the Armed Forces, is taken seriously by the UK Government and acts as a catalyst to move us beyond the usual platitudes.
“Members of the Armed Forces want action now and that is what this report is about.
“Beyond that, I hope it is also a key cornerstone for how an independent Scotland will approach these issues, ensuring that we are in line with other European and Nato countries in having an Armed Forces that is modern, resilient, flexible and meets the 21st century needs of those who choose to serve in uniform.”
Leo Docherty, Minister for Defence, People and Veterans, said: “This Government has announced the biggest increase in defence spending since the Cold War, funding the most comprehensive modernisation of our armed forces for over 30 years.
“We are delivering on our commitment to provide world-class careers and care for our brave servicemen, women and veterans, meanwhile the SNP have subjected our armed forces in Scotland to significant tax hikes and would see the UK scrap her most important line of defence, our nuclear deterrent.”