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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Thatcher condemns regiment merger
Margaret Thatcher and SOR campaigners. Picture by Robert Perry
Margaret Thatcher met Save Our Regiments campaigners
Margaret Thatcher has made an impassioned call to save Scotland's six historic regiments.

The former Conservative prime minister has condemned Labour's plans to amalgamate the regiments into a single super-regiment.

She said the proposals were "irresponsible", "painful" and "damaging".

She added that with the current threat of "evil", the nation's defences should be "strengthened not weakened".

On Friday, Baroness Thatcher met veterans from several Scottish regiments at Aberfoyle, in the Trossachs.

She decided to make a stand on the issue after watching a Save the Regiments march in London last weekend.

Recent events have shown that evil is always with us and that we must be forever vigilant
Margaret Thatcher

Baroness Thatcher said: "At a time when our armed forces are being asked to take on ever greater international commitments, it is irresponsible of the Labour government to impose such painful and damaging cuts.

"The Scottish regiments have a particularly fine and honourable record. Their courage and professionalism is recognised around the world as second to none.

"Their history and traditions form a binding thread which is passed down from generation to generation and gives them such a strong sense of identity.

"It is often said that in the midst of battle soldiers fight not for great concepts but for the friends and comrades who stand at their side.

'Disastrous decision'

"In short, they fight for their 'family' - the regiment. We must never forget that."

She added that the regimental system was "the envy of every other country".

"Recent events have shown that evil is always with us and that we must be forever vigilant.

"The campaign to stop Labour's disastrous decision is a vital one," said Baroness Thatcher.

'Stab in the back'

Campaign organiser for Save the Scottish Regiments Jeff Duncan welcomed the politician's support.

He added: "Whether you love her or not, she (Baroness Thatcher) is respected for her beliefs - and she is known for standing behind the armed forces."

Baroness Thatcher's comments follow Conservative claims that Tony Blair is guilty of "stabbing soldiers in the back."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced the merger in December.

Under the plans, the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots would come together to form one battalion of the new Royal Regiment of Scotland, along with battalions of the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Highlanders.

The Save the Scottish Regiments group aims to influence the outcome in at least 17 seats being defended by Labour at the general election on 5 May.



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