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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 14:29 GMT
Regiments group holds Dundee demo
Rose Gentle
Rose Gentle joined protesters outside the Dundee conference
Hundreds of Save the Scottish Regiments campaigners have staged a protest outside the Scottish Labour Conference.

About 200 members of the pressure group gathered outside the Dundee event to protest against plans to restructure the army in Scotland.

They encouraged the public outside the city's Caird Hall not to vote Labour in the forthcoming general election.

The rally coincided with Tony Blair's conference address on Friday and a march by the Black Watch in the city.

Soldiers from the local regiment are due to walk through Dundee to thank the public for their support during their tour of Iraq.

Among the protesters gathered outside the conference was Rose Gentle, the mother of 19-year-old Gordon Gentle, a Scottish soldier killed in Iraq last year.

Members of Save the Scottish Regiments are angry over government plans to create a new five-battalion super-regiment in Scotland at the expense of the existing six army regiments.

Tony Blair should hang his head in shame. We have a simple message for him: You are not welcome in Dundee.
Jeff Duncan
Save the Scottish Regiments

They fear the move will bring years of tradition to an end.

Group member and former Scots Guard, Allan Hendry has announced he will run in the East Kilbride constituency against armed forces minister Adam Ingram in support of the organisation's campaign.

Campaign spokesman Jeff Duncan said: "We are protesting against Tony Blair's visit to Dundee.

"It is ironic that here we have the man who is responsible for stabbing these soldiers in the back visiting Dundee on the same day that they are marching through the city to thank the people for their support.

"Tony Blair should hang his head in shame. We have a simple message for him: You are not welcome in Dundee. Go back home."

Strong feelings

However, the prime minister defended the controversial reorganisation at a private meeting on the eve of the conference.

He told a panel of selected readers at the Dundee Evening Telegraph event that the moves were not driven by the Treasury, insisting the defence budget was increasing.

He told Thursday night's meeting: "I yield to nobody in my admiration for the Armed Forces. The reason why we are making this change is that the Army is saying that this is what we need in the modern world.

"I know it's caused a lot of strong feelings.

"It's obviously not popular with people, maybe because of how it's been presented.

"The British Army has undergone fantastic changes over time and it's still strong."

Other press reports suggested Mr Blair will meet representatives of the Black Watch at some point on Friday.

Another protest also took place outside the heavily guarded conference venue.

Trade union Unison held a rally against the government's proposed new pension scheme and was supported by members of the Scottish Socialist Party and the National Pensions Convention Scotland.


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