Scottish troops in firing line as MoD reveals army job cuts

A NEW round of redundancies in the army that will see 5,300 personnel axed has led to warnings that many Scottish soldiers could lose their jobs.

The latest cuts are part of a programme to reduce the size of the regular army by about 20,000 to 82,000 by 2020.

The Ministry of Defence would not give details of where the axe will fall, but said most fields would be affected and all ranks up to brigadier would be included.

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The latest round of redundancies heightened concerns that promises to double the size of the army in Scotland will not be met.

Earlier this month, The Scotsman revealed that Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall had told MPs the size of the regular army in Scotland would increase by at most 500, bringing it up to 3,800, well short of the 6,500 promised by former defence secretary Liam Fox in 2011.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the Commons: “The army is actively managing recruitment to reach the target numbers, but unfortunately redundancies are unavoidable, due to the defence deficit this government inherited and the consequent scale of downsizing required.

“We will have smaller armed forces, but they will in future be properly equipped and well funded, unlike before. These redundancies will not affect current operations in Afghanistan, where our armed forces continue to fight so bravely on this country’s behalf.”

Labour’s shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the army faced a joint threat from the UK and Scottish governments.

He said: “Scotland plays a crucial role in the British Army. It’s a real worry that so many Scots soldiers could be sacked.

“Scotland now faces the twin threat of UK government defence cuts and SNP government plans for independence.

“There will now be real uncertainty amongst the defence community and service families in Scotland.”

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The cuts announced came after Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK was in a “generational struggle” with al-Qaeda, following the terrorist attack in Algeria.

Labour said the cuts, which were agreed in late 2010, were out of date and that the Strategic Defence and Security Review had not even mentioned problems in North Africa, which the Prime Minister says is now a focal point for terrorist groups.

Mr Murphy said: “The government’s defence review committed the UK to an army of 95,000 but didn’t even mention Mali, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria or even Libya. The threats have increased and yet the army is being cut to just 82,000, well below the previous promise.”

He added: “Yesterday, the Prime Minister rightly spoke of the urgency of the Islamist terror threat to the UK from North Africa. But in a ‘carry on regardless’ strategy, the very next day the Ministry of Defence announces 5,000 army redundancies.

In the Commons, SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson asked defence minister Mark Francois: “Only last year, the MoD said that between 6,500 and 7,000 troops were being returned from Germany to Scotland, and that new barracks would be built at Kirknewton and there would be new training areas in the Borders.

“Will the minister confirm that they are going back on all these commitments?”

Mr Francois replied: “Scottish personnel will be treated for the purposes of this process in much the same way as personnel throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. I believe the House think that’s right. So do I.”

SNP Scottish Government minister for veterans, Keith Brown, a former Royal Marine, described the announcement as “extremely worrying”.

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He said: “This announcement from the MoD about further army redundancies is extremely worrying, not only for our military and civilian personnel based here in Scotland, but also for their families, friends and the wider communities in which they live.

“It is expected that today’s announcement will force willing serving personnel into unemployment and hardship – something that is far from needed in these difficult financial times.”

The MoD had imposed “drastic and disproportionate” cuts in Scotland in recent years, with about 8,800 military and

civilian MoD jobs lost since 2000, Mr Brown said.

“We should bear in mind that many of those affected will have seen active service in Afghanistan and elsewhere,” he said.

“I am deeply concerned that Scotland’s needs are not being addressed and will take every opportunity to ensure action is taken to continue our support for this extremely hard-working and dedicated group of people.”

The first two tranches of redundancies also saw cuts to Royal Navy and RAF personnel, but those two services have been left out of the third round. The MoD has confirmed another round of redundancies for the army will be announced later.

Defence analyst Tim Ripley said most of the redundancies would be senior non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers who had served eight years or more.

“The army is losing some of its most senior and experienced personnel at a time when the Prime Minister is saying that we are in a ‘generational struggle’.

“It will damage morale and career structures in the army.

“Most of these redundancies will be compulsory. Those who wanted to get out took their chance in the earlier tranches.”