SNP condemns creation of Union Division as part of Army overhaul

The SNP has criticised what it claims is an attempt to “politicise serving personnel” after a new Union Division of the British Army was announced.

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace outlined the Future Soldier reforms to the armed forces, saying they would lead to “an Army that benefits the whole of our union”.

As part of the overhaul, more units will be placed in Scotland and The First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will form part of a new Ranger Regiment.

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Speaking at Westminster on Thursday, Mr Wallace said the Army “cannot afford to be slave to sentiment”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace outlined the Future Soldier reforms to the armed forces, saying they will lead to “an Army that benefits the whole of our union”.

His comments came as he confirmed the new administrative divisions of infantry would be the Queen’s Division, the Union Division, the Light Division, and the Guards and Parachute Division.

Mr Wallace said there would be “an increased proportion of the Army based in each of the devolved nations”.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) source told The Scotsman: “There are no political overtones to the naming of what is an administrative unit, not a fighting formation, which handles career management and personnel matters.”

Glencorse Barracks in Edinburgh will be retained, while Kinloss in Moray and Leuchars in Fife will be expanded.

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The MoD said the £355 million investment would “deliver over a £1 billion of economic benefits to Scotland”.

The 1 Scots will become 1st Battalion of a new Ranger Regiment, operating alongside three other battalions.

It will form part of the newly established Army Special Operations Brigade, which is expected to be deployed alongside allies to counter extremist organisations and hostile state threats.

The 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will continue to be based in Scotland, with 2 Scots in Edinburgh.

The 3 Scots battalion will stay in Inverness until 2029 before moving to Leuchars – forming part of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The Scots Dragoon Guards will remain as a Light Cavalry Regiment based out of Leuchars.

Referring to the new Union Division, SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald said on Twitter: “Attempts like this to politicise serving personnel, who choose to go into a career in uniform with a desire to protect, is a sign of how desperate the conservative government has become.

“Soldiers need a real improvement in terms and conditions, not used for political aims.”

Fellow SNP MP Douglas Chapman said Scotland still faced base closures.

Speaking at Westminster, he said: “With this statement and the complexity of it, the devil will be in the detail.”

Major General Bill Wright, Scotland’s senior general officer, said of the reforms: “Scotland will gain a major unit and Future Soldier will also see a higher proportion of the British Army based in Scotland.

“This provides an opportunity for more Scottish soldiers to be based nearer home, whilst delivering a broader range of exciting roles.”

Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey questioned why MoD civilian staff numbers had risen by 2,200 since 2015, while full-time soldiers had been cut by 5,000 in the same time.

Describing the plan as “dictated by costs not threats”, he added: “I fear that this plan leaves the British Army too small, too thinly stretched, too poorly equipped to deal with the threats that the UK and our allies now face which are growing and diversifying.”

A UK Government source said: “There are no political overtones to the naming of what is an administrative unit, not a fighting formation, which handles career management and personnel matters.”

Major General Bill Wright, Scotland’s senior general officer, said of the reforms: “Scotland will gain a major unit and Future Soldier will also see a higher proportion of the British Army based in Scotland.

“This provides an opportunity for more Scottish soldiers to be based nearer home, whilst delivering a broader range of exciting roles.”