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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 14:56 GMT
Army chiefs in regiments decision
Saltire on tank
The future structure of regiments is being decided
Military chiefs are meeting to make a final decision on the future of Scotland's Army regiments.

A committee of the Army Board, which is made up of the most senior defence figures, is discussing on Monday plans for restructuring regiments.

The proposals include cutting Scotland's six single-battalion regiments to five and merging these into a super regiment.

The plans have faced stiff opposition from campaigners and politicians alike.

The committee's decision must be ratified by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is expected that it will be made public next week.

It's important that we do have regard to the individual traditions and identities of the regiments and the battalions
Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling
When ministers announced a reorganisation of the Army it drew a question mark over the futures of the Black Watch, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

In October, the Council of Scottish Colonels proposed the merger of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers into a single battalion.

Under their vision, it would be one of five in the new super regiment.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling said it was vital to make the right military decision.

He said: "It's firstly important that we've got the Army organised in the best possible way to support our front line troops.

"Secondly, it's important that we do have regard to the individual traditions and identities of the regiments and the battalions."

Recruitment concern

Garry Barnett, former colonel of the Black Watch, said: "If you look at the history of amalgamating regiments, which is the same as a super regiment being formed from those remaining, it's an amalgamation.

"It takes about 10 years for recruiting to recover, according to statistics.

"So when people say recruiting will benefit from restructuring, I'm afraid they haven't looked at the statistics or they've ignored them."

The proposals to either merge or amalgamate the six regiments into a super regiment sparked a political outcry, with Labour backbenchers and opposition politicians opposing the plan.

They felt the timing was insensitive because the Black Watch was in the frontline in Iraq, suffering casualties.

Regiments campaigner
Campaigners have been involved in a vocal campaign

The Save the Scottish Regiments campaigners were so angered they threatened to stand against Labour at the next general election.

Speaking ahead of the Army Board meeting, a spokesman said: "The government and the Army Board have spent the past four months attempting to trick serving soldiers and the public into thinking their planned changes for the Scottish regiments are for the good of the Army and for that of the serving soldier.

"They are very much not for the good and will destroy Scotland's regiments by moulding them into a single super regiment which will lead to severe recruitment problems, a loss of local connections to those regiments and a loss to Scotland of an important part of her heritage and, most importantly, her future - the regiments are the envy of armies around the world."

Effective structure

An alternative blueprint had been put forward by Labour MP Eric Joyce, who proposed going ahead with the merger while preserving the other regiments.

For a brief time, there was speculation the prime minister might consider the plan, but that now seems unlikely.

Speaking in Scotland last week, Mr Blair said the aim was to preserve tradition but introduce a more effective structure and hinted that a super regiment was likely.

He said: "They don't want to get rid of the history or the traditions of the regiment or the local connections - far from it, all they want to do is make sure they can transfer people easily across regiments and deploy them more flexibly."

The prime minister said he hoped campaigners' concerns would be taken into account but the need for effective change had to be paramount.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why some oppose the creation of super-regiments




SEE ALSO:
Blair gives hint over regiments
02 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Hoon faces new Black Watch fight
24 Nov 04 |  Scotland
'No decision on Scots regiments'
10 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Councils rally to defend regiment
27 Aug 04 |  Scotland
Scotland's defence profile
21 Jul 04 |  Scotland


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