SNP warns dismantling Black Watch would be 'serious betrayal' amid reports it could be axed
The SNP have warned dismantling the famous Black Watch would be a “serious betrayal” amid reports it could be axed.
Scottish regiments are believed to be in the firing line and could be disbanded as the army faces making significant cuts.
It is claimed this could include the Black Watch, amid plans to lose up to 18,000 soldiers.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, has been told the army needs to make reductions to its 30 infantry battalions.
While the Black Watch was spared in the last series of cuts, it along with the Highlanders and Royal Highland Fusiliers are now believed to be facing the end.
All three regiments are said to be struggling to maintain a full staff.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) source said: “It makes sense for the battalions most under strength to be rolled into each other. Painful decisions will have to be made.”
SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald MP claimed cutting the historic unit would betray veterans.
He said: “To dismantle this ancient regiment would be a serious betrayal of all who serve and who have served in the past.
“It would be unconscionable for any government to scrap the historic Black Watch and it would fly in the face of the promises made to the Scottish people, and those Scots serving in the armed forces, during the independence referendum - a promise that the government is already falling far short of.
“No defence secretary worth their salt would even consider signing this off and I expect Ben Wallace to signal that at the earliest opportunity.”
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also called for the Black Watch to be protected.
He said: "The Black Watch is more than just a symbol of our shared history and traditions, it's a Scottish and British institution that continues to play a vital role in our armed services.
"These reports speculating about the future of the Black Watch are deeply unhelpful.
"I'm urgently seeking reassurances from the Ministry of Defence that this battalion will not be disbanded and we will continue to make the strong and compelling case that Scotland’s significant contribution to the UK Armed Forces is maintained."
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Campbell suggested axing the Black Watch would help fuel support for independence.
He warned: “Fighting an independence referendum off the back of disbanding famous Scottish units would be a very unwise political decision.
“It also sends a very bad signal to Nato and the US if we start reducing troops.”
The mooted move comes despite the army insisting troop numbers are actually going up.
Last week it was reported the army would lose 10,000 troops a year if the UK Government doesn’t fund a £15 billion top-up, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak offering just £1.9bn.
An Integrated Review of the UK’s foreign policy was due to be completed later this year, with far-reaching recommendations expected across both defence and diplomatic policy.
A paper from the SNP on the sweeping review is due to be published this week.
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