You And Whose Army?

What is it about Britain that makes the Unionists proud? If you ask, it wont be long before someone mentions the war. Defence seems to be a keystone of belief in Britain, as if regiments, march pasts and memories of battles past are signposts to where our future lies.
Pride in the military is as British as Gilbert and Sullivan who satirised it scandalously and simultaneously played it like a violin for Victorian audiences. For in spite of all temptations, To belong to other nations, He remains an Englishman! I sing along like a true believer myself, happy to be English until the curtain comes down. (Coughs with embarrassment and leaves).
But what does defence tell us about the Britain of today?
First they are systematically dismantling the standing army which is going down in numbers from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017 as the Ministry of Defence plugs a £38bn hole in the budget.
25,000 civilian staff working at the MoD face redundancy.
Meanwhile the government announced reservist numbers were to be doubled to 30,000 by 2018 to help fill the gap. However the number of reservists actually grew by only 60 – yes that’s sixty – in the last quarter of 2013 despite the Government’s drive to recruit 11,000 part-time soldiers by the end of the decade. Even this tiny increase followed a year in which the reserve actually shrank. So on one hand you have the dismay and fear of military families eyeing a bleak future – the experience of ex-soldiers in the jobs market isn’t good – and de-stabilising morale while they can’t attract part-time replacements.
One reason for this failure is a botched IT scheme designed to do the paperwork. More than 1000 troops have been drafted into recruitment offices to help overcome the IT fiasco at an extra cost of £1 million a month. You have to hope Captain Mainwaring is in command. Who was actually in charge of the online recruitment? Why privatised public services company Capita of course. Who else? The same company that took so long to process benefits payments for the terminally ill that many died before the cheque arrived. Yet last year the MoD closed over 20 Territorial Army centres, seven of them in Scotland.
At the same time soldier training courses for new recruits have been abandoned or curtailed because so few are turning up.
Perhaps one reason is the way the British treat their veterans. Hundreds of injured ex-soldiers are being declared fit for work by Atos Healthcare in spite of physical and mental injuries they suffered in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Scotland, we provide home for the Trident submarine fleet and half of the RAF combat squadron and – one reason why they need us in NATO – an array of radar, listening and monitoring devices and stations.
Our coast at Cape Wrath is a bombing range, they fire depleted uranium tank rounds into the sea – against international law – at Dundrennan in Kirkcudbright – they scrapped the Nimrod programme which provided long-range reconnaissance and surveillance, there are only five helicopters in the whole of Scotland, the navy does not have one major surface vessel based in our waters and only a single conventional naval vessel on the East coast. We lost 28 per cent of military personnel in four years against a UK average figure of 12 per cent, and there is an underspend here running into billions.
Then they tell us we can’t cope on our own and who would want to sign up to fight for Scotland anyway…and they would take away shipbuilding contracts and close the yards, throwing the men out of work – because overnight they would become foreigners to Britain and couldn’t be trusted to do their job. Oh, and there will be no more exploration for oil on the west coast in case it interferes with our subs. It’s a winning combination, isn’t it? Makes you proud to be British.
But how is there a £38b black hole in the accounts at the MoD? Well, the National Audit Office found in 2011 alone that their costs overran by £6b on major projects as well as being 30 months behind schedule. In the previous year it was £3b they couldn’t find. But as for the full £38bn even the MoD and the NAO can’t say how it’s arrived it. Nobody can actually add up the bits and pieces and confirm just how much the MoD has either lost is over budget. It is, literally, a black hole. Best look the other way.
The Americans don’t though. A few years ago, Hilary Clinton expressed worries about constant budget cuts in Britain’s military spending and only recently an American government official told journalists that if the UK was to remain a real partner able to offer full support in hardware and personnel, it needed to spend money on conventional forces, not on nuclear weapons. Britain doesn’t need them, because we’ve already got them, was his message.
Britain’s defences are becoming a joke, the First Sea Lord says so… ‘hollowed out’ was his phrase. Even our partners are worried and the referendum is threatening to undermine the viability of nuclear deterrence. It isn’t Scotland that’s out of line in this parade. We’re in step with the smaller smarter countries keeping their defences conventional and proportionate and within a realistic budget. It’s overblown, bragging Britain that is festooned with plumes, medals and braid and ceremonial swords while all it can fight with is a choice between nuclear catastrophe and a toothpick.

(By the way, Wine Club Platinum Members, loyalty cards on their way soon!)

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54 thoughts on “You And Whose Army?

  1. I get fair scunnered at the way Scots are treated, told we are war like when what happens is our youngsters join up to escape poverty. I know about what I speak because my Dad was a boy soldier who was there just in time for World War 2, my youngest uncle went off to the RAF Regiment as a young man of seventeen, lost my other uncle during the War. I look at things today and if they cannot recruit, good.
    How many men find themselves on the scrap heap once the army is done with them, how many cannot settle, have mental health problems. How much of the homeless were once part of the British Fighting force. Too many.

  2. Phew! Its great to see you at work doing what you do best exposing the hypocrisy that lies at the heart of everything that Westminster does.

  3. RobertTyreBute

    Brilliant as ever Derek – your use of humour, sarcasm and sheer common sense to puncture the pompousity of Hammond et al is a joy to behold!

  4. The MODs treatment of our service men and women is nothing short of a disgrace. Their past record is appalling enough, but today? Well today you’re serving in Afghanistan, tomorrow you’re picking up dole your dole cheque… maybe. All so suits can sit at big tables and punch above our weight by retaining a weapon system of mass murder.

    If we ask Scottish troops to risk their lives, please let it always be in defence of their country or bringing aid and relief to others in need and as part of a unified effort. Enough of punching above our weight for geo political influence or corporate greed. It brings nothing but misery and more conflict.

    • Hugh Wallace

      Sadly nothing new here. My uncle died last year, aged 62. He had grown up in impoverished Govan and wanted nothing more than to join the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (this wasn’t just to escape poverty but that will have been a part of it). He joined in February 1972 and by March 1973 was out on his ear again. What happened in the intervening 1 year and 32 days you might ask? Oh, just a wee roadside bomb outside of Dungannon, Northern Ireland. Three dead and several wounded that day, including my uncle. He nearly lost his life, his right leg and did lose the ability to have children. And what did he get for it? A war pension? Compensation? A medal? None of the above. Not. A. Sausage. He was out the door as soon as he could walk and all his discharge papers say is “Ceasing to fulfil Army medical requirements”. Sounds like he had a bad cold or something, doesn’t it?

      For the next 40 years my uncle did his best to make a living for himself and my aunt and was doing ok until he was hit by a massive heart attach in the early 90s and he could never work again. By the time he died, he and my aunt (who herself was unable to work due to having had a stroke) were on benefits which left them with a £150 shortfall in income each month. Thankfully I was able to help them out but if it wasn’t for that they would have been one of the couples choosing between having the heating on or eating a square meal. When he died he was able to make the greatest financial contribution of his life due to the modest amount of life insurance he had.

      Anyway, he died last year having been overcome by heart disease, diabetes and finally a stroke. In death the Regimental Association have been wonderful to his widow and his ashes now rest at Stirling Castle but one can’t help feel that dead soldiers are more valued (and valuable) than those who survive with injuries.

      I soldiered too for a time and fully accept that death and injury are part of the deal when you sign up but there should be something that ensures that if you spill your blood on behalf of your country that your country keeps you from poverty & destitution thereafter. I long for the day when Scottish service men and women no longer go off to fight wars in far off lands to protect British and American interests. I will gladly accept those same men and women going off to ensure peace and stability as part of UN peacekeeping missions where their professionalism would surely be of significant use but it will be a complete disgrace if n independent Scotland doesn’t treat its troops better than the UK does and has always done.

      • Dr JM Mackintosh

        thank you for your post. It was a very poignant.

        Hopefully, in future, instead of being cannon fodder for the Empire our soldiers will be peacemakers for the UN.

      • May I say Hugh that I thought that was a very moving post and said much more fully what I was trying to say. My Uncle, the youngest one made it through his service with nothing more than a thrombosis but he too died early at the age of sixty with the inevitable, or so it seems, heart attack. I too want to see a time when Scots join up to keep the peace, not to go to war. I am sure that those who want to fight can always join the English, they seem to be the ones with the “put them in their place” spirit.


        while i was in canada,talking to the telephone engineer who was in the canadian military,and spent time in germany beside uk troops,and was disgusted at the way british squadies were treated by the officers who seemed to believe the ordinary privates were scum,this was a genuine comment from a foreign observer on our elite trained to lead not by example but by superior breeding
        hopefully scotland can change this,and have a profession that [will attract good people ,
        unlike menzies campbell who believes we couldnt attract professionals as we are too wee

      • Apologies for not replying sooner Hugh, I’ve been out of town for the past couple of days.

        An all too familiar and sad story. Many thanks for sharing. My own uncle was present for the Christmas island tests back in the 50s. You can imagine how his particular tale ended after years of poor health. Another shameful chapter in the MODs treatment of their veterans.

        I would hope that any covenant between a Scottish government and their service personnel is kept in good faith. As a society we aspire to care for those least able to care for themselves. It should then be no burden whatsoever to care for those who watch over us.

  5. Great article again Derek. Of course there is no “Defence” in the MOD, the whole strategy is based on “Attack” or “War”, preferably with people who have next to no capability to defend themselves. Welcome to the grand world of geopolitical strategy. As least that is the game that Westminster thinks it is playing. As you make clear, currently the UK is a busted flush in this game, but in spending its cash on Attack, it has ignored the need for Defence. Scotland will not make this mistake. We need to vote YES to have a true Defence force.


    glad to have you digging for info thats relevant ,why do we still have no voters? this is by far and large a no brainer,but theres still a great lack of info out there,due to media bias

  7. Pentland Firth

    Teh UK hasn’t eeb a world power since 1945, and the Suez fiasco proved its dimished status to all but the most myopic. Sadly the British establishment has proved very myopic over the decades since, and, as the media in general follow the establishment line, many people are taken in by the delusional idea of Britain still being a major power. The people of these islands literally pay the price, and a very high price it si too, for their delusions. Scots, at least those who think as Scots and not as Brits, are free of those absurd notions, and the defence plans outlined by the current Scottish government for an independent Scotland seem much more rooted in reality, i.e., what are our foreign policy objectives likely to be, and how can we defend them adequately and within a reasonable, affordable budget. The savings will be significant, and can be used for more productive purposes. A side benefit, is that free of the imperial “force projection” delusions of the the UK’s three (now four?) main political parties and its media, we will be respected as sane Scottish pragmatists rather than laughed at (generally behind our backs) by much of the world’s military as part of the UK.

  8. Maybe Stirling Cooncil can lend a few of Proud Edward’s Army troops to support the Farage Balloon in Embra the day. The loyalists have offered to support him with hundreds of activists, armoured cars and other MOD vehicles.

    Armed Forced Day was invented by Broon and Murphy. Broon, who signed the cheques to bomb Iraq and maintain Trident on the Clyde, is now following Blair’s steps by acting as a peace envoy in Nigeria, who are the only country next to Scotland to discover oil and be poorer for it.

  9. Graham Hewitt

    Geopolitical? Egopolitical more like. Is there a Westminster politician in any of the major parties who doesn’t want us to punch above our weight or wants to get rid of nuclear weapons? Independence will contribute towards making the world a slightly less dangerous place by obliging the rUK to reconsider its defence strategy and get rid of wmf – I hope.

  10. Excellent stuff, Derek. The £38bn black hole is actually a morass of corruption, incompetence and nepotism. In a wholly unrelated point, try researching the number of ex-MOD ministers (and possibly ex-senior civil servants and military brass) who have been responsible for signing off on various billion-pound contracts over the past 30 years or so and see those who have – by strange coincidence – ended up as directors of subsidiaries of some of the corporations who benefitted from their decision. Tony Blair’s ex-armed forces minister, the Rt Hon Adam Ingram, formerly MP for East Kilbride might be an interesting place to start. And on another unrelated point, his links to arms dealers fronting the Gadaffi regime are also fascinating.

    On that other black hole… folk might be intrigued by one avenue the Coalition are pursuing to shore up the fast dwindling reservist forces – “national service” for 18-25 year olds. Follow this link:

  11. @donald6

    I really hope NF does show up in Edinburgh flanked by goons and armoured cars. Another 100,000 Yes votes right there!

  12. Absolutely first class, Derek.

    It is heartening to know you are in good form.

    In the war of words, I am sure glad you’re on the Yes side.

    I have suspected for some time that self-determination for Scotland

    is destined to coincide with a serious dip in the fortunes of rUK

  13. I read that the British army has more Generals than the whole of the US Army.

  14. @SCED300

    The US marine Corp is roughly about the size of the UK army has only 86 generals (limited by statute) while the UK has over 500 generals. Another comparison is the Israeli army which again is similar in size to the UK army has only 48 generals.

    • When you quote stats like that, could you also provide a reference please. I would love to throw this in certian people’s faces, but can’t without a cite and I don’t have the time to go searching for one.

      • I heard this on the radio some time ago, on the Andrew Marr “Start the Week” programme. Frank Ledwidge, author of “Losing Small Wars”, describes the number of generals around 8.9 minutes here
        You should be able to google more info on this.

  15. As a former soldier i must admit it’s hardly a shock. The way our soldiers are treated when leaving has been the norm even when i joined in the early eighties.

    And maybe even worse with ATOS running things. I cannot believe how unprotected we are. and find that the younger men and women see the armed forces as a waste of time to earn qualifications and work experience . I joined because i wanted to but many said because there was little else on offer. With the images of soldiers being killed or maimed on the media, many see our armed forces as pointless.How sad.

    I see now they might lift the ban on females on combat zones. How bloody desperate can we be even thinking this way. Females fighting men on a battlefield would be a slaughter. Not to mention the way they would be treated as prisoners. (Rape and torture ) and please don’t mis understand me as we have jobs in our armed forces that women do every day and often better because they can utilise their skills and talents on an equal footing. The battle field is all about strength and aggression .

    I never felt the “Rule Britannia ” thing to deeply but was proud to serve my country. No amount of persuasion would make me join now. Our Forces are a shadow of themselves. LIONS LED BY DONKEY’S . Or should that be LION .

    the few that are left……

    • I don’t approve of the notion of war. I don’t like the idea of sending any of our children out to kill other people’s children. But… if we allow the boys to go (and they are all volunteers after all) then why not girls too? If a woman decides she wants to carry a big gun and kill people, why should she not be allowed just because she’s a woman?

  16. Derek,
    I read somewhere that if your army falls below 100,000 it is technically a “Militia”.
    I never thought at the time to keep the link, in light of events I regret that. So, I was wondering if you knew
    anything about that?, or have means to find out?

    • The comment is in the following Express article

      “Prime Minister David Cameron was last night urged to rethink the current planned cuts, which would slash troops from 101,300 to just 82,000 by 2020.

      The UK National Defence Association said Britain’s proud 370-year-old Army would fall below the internationally recognised indicator that separates an army from a militia or other type of defence force.

      Commander John Muxworthy, founder and director of the defence association, said: “According to all international military definitions, and the generals I have spoken with, it will be too small to technically be called an army if all the pro- posed cuts go through – it should be a home defence force instead.””

  17. dennis mclaughlin

    ‘Twas on the Good Ship Venus’……..
    The MOD couldnae run a bloody menage.

  18. Thirty tonnes of depleted uranium already dumped in the Solway Firth which I believe is tidal as far as Dumfries. Sellafield on the English side of the Solway is also leaky. But why would London bother about that? Small, scattered communities don’t count in the larger scheme of things.

  19. Fairly recently,I saw General Rose (former SAS man) claiming that no one would sign up to join a Scottish army because all they would have to do was guard a few oil rigs.
    Some,perhaps like Gen Rose,join the army seeking adventure but for most it is a paying job and an opportunity to learn a trade.
    We have a lifetime duty of care to our service people who have been mentally and physically scarred by Westminster’s foreign adventures and not thrown on the scrap heap by the MoD.

  20. I’ve always had admiration for the armed forces. They do not have the luxury of choosing who to fight – our democratically elected politicians do that very badly for them.

    The former armed forces people seem to be joining a lengthening list of people let down and abandoned by the State. It seems to be a heavily loaded, one-way contract between us citizens and the State. Despite our various contributions we seem to get kicked into touch pretty damn quick when we are deemed too expensive and/or surplus to requirements.

    Whatever the colour of our government in an independent Scotland I just hope they seek to do much better and have some basic human empathy.

    • Murray – we are not citizens but subjects of the UK and, as such, have always been a crop to be harvested. The Empire may be dead but the establishment which ran that Empire is very much alive and functioning. We need to vote YES to regain our sovereignty and become citizens of Scotland, our country.

      • “we are not citizens but subjects of the UK and, as such, have always been a crop to be harvested.”

        That struck home. Never a truer word said.

  21. Ian Kirkwood

    Thanks for opening up this issue Derek. I have noted and indeed commented on the incredible focus that the no camp and establishment have on military capabilities and yet the real facts show a different story. It is completely crazy to be even considering a 100 billion new gen nuclear capability in this day and age, never mind the current economic situation. Once again Wastemonster is proven to be out of touch. Scotland can show the way forward.
    I am very proud of our service folks who do a great job under difficult political leadership.

  22. There was a story highlighted on the Rev’s twitter about a soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan who was made compulsorily redundant 3 days before he was due to retire and lost £100,000,
    He has since returned his campaign medals to Cameron in disgust.

    Now that story doesn’t surprise me in the slightest because the British establishment think that everyone below the aristocracy are plebs.

    Nothing has changed since over 1 million British soldiers were ‘sent over the top’ to die a horrible death in muddy fields.

    WE are cannon fodder, make no mistake they couldn’t care less about the people of this country.
    I had heard about the DU shells – is this not illegal?

    • liz – the MoD said that the DU shells had been “placed” in the Solway not dumped so it was not illegal. I think Rob Edwards, the Environmental correspondent for the Sunday Herald, followed this up.


      churchill believed we were cannon fodder, we have more generals bedecked with gold and medals than the whole us army

  23. DU munitions are an abomination to humanity google ‘Death made in America’ but I warn you that the images are horrendous.

    Britain is how Empires collapse by over stretching themselves in foreign adventures and I suspect that they are deliberately diminishing the lower rank numbers as if they were all brought home the government would fear for their own safety as revolution is in the air.


      we cannot lose…or a bloody revolt will follow ,we cannot follow these liars and warmongers anymore,maybe this summer we will gather in thousands to make them realise they have lost by their own hands

  24. This is first rate research Derek.

    The Royal Society of Edinburgh held a conference on this last year, which you can watch online. Amongst the interesting discussion was the fact (raised by a member of the audience) that of the uncertain facts the military had to deal with in terms of military projections and future defence, the facts of geography cannot be denied and remain constants: that Scotland has 30% of the land area of the UK but 85% of the coastline. Which suggests to me that we need a navy and air force to defend our coastline and waters more than we need regiments. This point appears about half way through, @ 1.01′.

    There was also a report produced by a guy who thought an independent Scotland could run a suitable defence budget on £1.75 billion, which, when you consider the budget for NHS Lothian is around £1.4 billion, sounds rather on the light side to me. Surely more should be spent on subs? Maybe using our own engineering and shipbuilding skills?

    Another point of interest was the discussion about the replacement of Trident, and whether in fact it was likely that it even could be afforded to be replaced. And that maybe we’ve only got another decade left of Trident anyway. My ears picked up here, as Trident is a bargaining chip, but it might have a finite shelf life as such.

  25. I for one would not be sorry about the 25000 redundancies at the MOD, but it would have to be managers only.

    My brother-in-law worked there in the eighties and said the management structure was crushingly overloaded with retired brass. Sounded like an alternate house of lords for the forces to me.

    What I fear however is that the actual workers will go and rUK will be left with just the brass..

  26. Cag-does-thinking

    Another great piece, one of the major achilles heels of the “union” is just how big the armed forces are and hence just how enormous the budget is. The waste is really the issue. Huge amounts of expensive equipment that isn’t capable of doing what it should, and a huge load of Major Bufton Tuftons with cast iron pensions while those that do all the work are getting made redundant.

    It has long needed reform but it is in large part the domain of the westminster establishment and we all know how much they are keen to reform their own backyard.

    However you can do a lot in a small country with the money that we pay for aircraft carriers and subs. It would also finally bring it home to the rUK that the days of empire are over and they should be realistic about what constitutes a defence force or even an effective NATO force.

  27. Pentland Firth

    If I promise to take my gloves off before typing a comment again, will you allow me off the naughty step? Twenty five hours in moderation seems a tad excessive, even if my comment was full of typos. Come on Derek, it’s not as if your own typing is completely error free.

  28. Sadly it get worse.

    The UK has 1100+ APC’s, 600+ MBT’s – of these 631 and 227 are operational respectively.

    Tornado is being scrapped, leaving us with a MRCA that isn’t really a MRCA.

    The new Maritime Patrol Aircraft aren’t MPA’s really, can’t refuel mid-air with British AirTankers – they’re also a couple of decades from having been new too.

    The F35C JSF, is behind schedule and likely to be more expensive than planned. We’re not allowed to do all repairs ourselves – I’ll come back to that in a minute.

    The Aircraft Carriers can’t refit anywhere in rUK currently. The F35 fleets for each of 3 Sqdns of 12 will be cut to 2 Sqdns of 8 each.

    Coming back too maintenance, we do not have enough engineers and technicians to maintain the Typhoon, never mind the F35’s so perhaps the US retaining certain maintenance rights is a good thing – never mind the £bn’s we actually ploughed into the development of the F35 already.

    And to clarify for all those who believe the rUK will cause the Clyde to close…. They cannot build the Type 26 Combat Ships anywhere in rUK as nowhere can fit them in without the Govt blowing another £12Bn on developing a new yard.

    So, Rosyth for the Aircraft Carriers, Clyde for the F26 builds. Simple common sense, not politicking.

    • And the Govt will reduce ‘Boots on the Ground’ further to 70,000.

      The Reservists aspect is going so badly, the MoD tried to CON leavers, even those who had completed 30 years, that they had to be reservists and to report for reservist registration to various places. Thankfully, despite the carefully worded letters, most long servers saw through the ruse.

  29. I just tried to comment but got a 404 message that the page did not exist and never has! So apologies if this appears twice.
    My point was that I suspect that war has been privatised and taxes are being chanelled directly to corporations rather than maintaining the costly fiction that we have a defence force. This might explain the black hole.

  30. Not remarkable if the British armed forces take bad decisions.

    It looks like an unmodernised poshocracy rather than a meritocracy. No Scottish or working-class officers’ voices are ever on my radio representing the armed services, suggesting they don’t recruit such types for the upper ranks and the rich jobs.

    As for the way veterans are treated and the disdain Hugh wrote about – does that include officer veterans? Same treatment for them?

    Aye. Misrule Britannia.

    Clearly, here’s yet another area independent Scotland can professionalise, open opportunities for our own people, and inject some humanity.

  31. Having done my “time” in the Mob (R.A.F.), I can validate a lot of the comments posted above. The British Military Establishment is still (as it was back then to an even greater extent !!) locked into an ‘Empire’ mentality. I foresee a Scottish Defense Force (Navy, Army, Air Force) tasked with defending our territorial integrity on land, water & in the air. My ardent hope is that our young men/women in uniform will be deployed around the world (under UN mandate) as Peace Keepers & conflict resolution moderators. To be seen as honest arbitrators in situations of conflict … a truly noble aspiration for our new (old ?) armed forces. Can I also plead my suit to the future Scottish Defense Minister to reinstate Leuchars as Scotland’s primary Fighter Base ? (I know, I’m biased … Guilty !!!)

  32. What is it about Tories and IT? Why are they so damned hopeless about something that is surrounded by idiot-proof methodologies through design and testing, integration, delivery. Given that Eros IT is an anagram of Tories you’d think they’d have a LOVE of IT!
    IDS the biggest and most costly IT buffoon of them all.

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