Argylls face new fight for future

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are under threat
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are under threat
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The future of the Argylls once again appears to be under threat.

Defence cuts planned by Whitehall could see the end of the famous infantry regiment formed 131 years ago, along with another Scottish battalion.

Even if the Ministry of Defence doesn’t take the decision to scrap the unit completely, it appears the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders’ name could disappear with the battalion to be known only as 5 Scots.

However, Councillor Robert Spears, himself an Army veteran, said any move which jeopardised the future of the Scottish regiments was “an insult” to the country’s proud military history.

In 2004 there was an outcry when the then Government tried to scrap Scottish regiments with 2000 protesters marching in London.

This week, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond spoke about the strategic defence and security review currently under way which will cut 20,000 regular Army posts. He warned regiments with significant numbers of soldiers from Commonwealth countries and who failed to meet their recruitment targets faced abolition or merger.

However, the Argylls and The Highlanders are both understood to be threatened with disbandment despite, like all the Scottish battalions, meeting recruiting targets and having less than 10 per cent of soldiers from overseas.

The Argylls is an air assault infantry battalion which, despite having its roots in Stirlingshire, has been based in Canterbury since 2003, while the Highlanders, an armoured infantry battalion, is currently based near Fallingbostel in Germany.

An announcement on their future is expected later this month.

Mr Spears, Falkirk Council’s veterans’ champion and who has served as a Captain in the Royal Engineers, said he believed the move was political in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

He said: “It’s disgraceful that a historic regiment is being used as a pawn. Scotland has a long history and tradition of its fighting men going all over the world to defend this country.

“Cutting the number of soldiers will only lead to greater pressure on those that remain.’’

However, Falkirk MP Eric Joyce, himself a former Army Major, said throughout history amalgmation of regiments had taken place.

He said: “Firstly, the SNP wants to break up the British Army, and, secondly, armies are always changing shape. Generals decide, not politicians, which is the best shape and what regiments there should be.

“Things have changed throughout history and I’m not sentimental about it. I’m sure many of those in the Argylls today are not concerned about regimental history but about their careers.”

The Argylls received the freedom of Falkirk in 1972 and two years later similar honours were bestowed by Grangemouth, along with Denny and Dunipace.