SOLDIERS and ex-service personnel alike will have winced to have heard Defence Secretary Philip Hammond refer to Scotland’s cavalry “battalion” during his recent foray north of the Border. As everyone who has served in the military will know, cavalry (i. armoured) units are traditionally referred to as “regiments”, never as “battalions”.
That apart, Mr Hammond states that an independent Scotland could not expect automatically to inherit the country’s historic regiments. True, the battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland could follow the fate of the six former Irish regiments of the British Army that were disbanded on the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. But the Scottish battalions could always be reconstituted, with no reference to Westminster whatsoever, by an independent Scottish Government. The same logic could apply to Scotland’s cavalry regiment, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
I suspect that difficulties are being manufactured here where in truth there are few or none. On the formation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1954, three African battalions of the British Army were seamlessly transferred to the new Federal Army, which also had an SAS squadron closely allied to its British Army counterparts. And on Indian independence in 1947, eight Gurkha battalions were transferred to the British Army, with the remainder staying with the Indian Army.
When changes such as this occur, it is entirely feasible for all ranks to be offered a choice as to the army in which they would prefer to continue to serve. This happened with the Gurkhas in India in 1947, and to an extent when the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland broke up in 1964. In addition, Irishmen have continued to serve in their own army and in the British Army with distinction over the years.
Armies are, by nature and training, flexible organisations. With a little imagination and flair, the difficulties of which Mr Hammond spoke could be overcome. I remain to be convinced that Mr Hammond recognises this.
Newbattle Abbey Crescent
I was interested to read that army recruits in Scotland would be offered “a better deal” should independence occur (your report, 14 October).
I don’t really understand why we need an army at all, can the need be explained to me, please? Just from whom are we defending ourselves – and why? I could see the need for a national emergency force to assist with disasters and unforseen emergencies, but why would they want to fight anybody?