SNP members have backed a call to raise the military recruitment age to 18 for all roles requiring combat training.
The issue was debated on the opening day of the party’s autumn conference in Glasgow after being put forward by its youth wing.
Rhiannon Spear, national convener of Young Scots for Independence (YSI), said: “Defence is a reserved matter and so we bring forward this motion with the view of what a defence force should look like in an independent Scotland, and to mandate our elected members at Westminster to campaign to raise the age of military recruitment for all roles that require combat training right now.
“The UK is currently the only country within the EU and Nato which recruits at 16, in fact you can currently be recruited at 15 years and seven months.”
Ms Spear said evidence showed those who join at 16 and 17 are “more likely to suffer PTSD, alcohol abuse, self-harm, commit suicide and more likely to die or be injured in active service than older recruits”.
She attacked Ministry of Defence advertising which targets those aged under 18, adding: “In August when our young people were wracking their nerves waiting for their exam results the MoD paid for targeted advertising on Twitter and Facebook.
“Preying on 15,16 and 17-year-olds at their most vulnerable time.”
The majority of party members backed raising the age to 18, however others argued that the move was hypocritical because of the party’s support for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Jack O’Neil, convener of the YSI in the north east of Scotland, said the party also risked “alienating thousands of young people across the country who simply believe that their future should be in their hands”.
MSP Christina McKelvie said comparing the military recruitment age to giving young people the vote was a “false equivalence argument”.
She said: “If we give a young person a pencil to go into a ballot box to put an X on a piece of paper, that that’s nothing like the same equivalence to handing them a gun, teaching them how to use that gun, dehumanising them to the point that they will go into combat with that person facing them.”
SNP MP and party defence spokesman Stewart McDonald argued the motion was too narrowly focused on age, insisting he would set up a commission to advise on the wider changes needed in the forces.
However his amendment, calling for the “active duty age” to be raised to 18, was rejected in favour of the YSI motion.