President thanks Scottish forces

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GEORGE Bush delivered an unprecedented message of support to Scottish service personnel fighting in Iraq yesterday.

In a signed letter sent to The Scotsman from the White House, the president of the United States said he and his country were "deeply grateful" for their contribution to the liberation of Iraq.

The message was timed to coincide with yesterday’s annual Tartan Day celebration in New York, with parades, marching bands and parties designed to mark Scottish-US relations.

This is the second time Mr Bush has given such public backing to Tartan Day, but he broke from convention to deliberately refer to the war in Iraq and to the efforts being made by Scottish members of the armed forces.

The Black Watch infantry regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards tank regiment and 45 Commando, the Royal Marines, have played key roles in securing the area around Basra, while RAF squadrons 617, 11 and 12 from Lossiemouth and Leuchars have flown daily sorties against Iraqi positions.

Mr Bush said he wanted to send greetings to all those celebrating Tartan Day and to recognise the crucial role that Scottish immigrants had in shaping US society.

"Among the most important of these contributions have been efforts to establish and uphold the cause of freedom," he said, citing the influence the Declaration of Arbroath had on the US Declaration of Independence. "This legacy continues today, as the United States joins with a broad coalition of nations to advance freedom and defend the peace of the world. We are deeply grateful for the contributions of the many brave Scottish men and women who are fighting in this noble cause."

Tartan Day, established in 1998, takes place every year on 6 April - the day in 1320 that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed.