Once again, there is a fight to save the identities of Scotland’s famous fighting units. Already amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Scotland by the last Labour Government, our famous former regiments exist as battalions protected by their name and cap badge. In amalgamating our regiments, the last Labour Government also promised what they called a “golden thread” that would ensure that the specific heritage and traditions would be preserved in the new regiment.
However, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, recently suggested that those names didn’t matter and proposed that our battalions be simply referred to by their number. With one stroke of a Whitehall pen he recommended that our famous fighting units be simply done away with and consigned to history. The Black Watch would be referred to as the Third Battalion, or the Third Scots, if you like. This produced uproar from Scotland’s veteran community and those associated with our regiments. All sorts of campaigns were launched to have this preserved.
And there is a fantastic association in Perthshire with our local regiment, the Black Watch. Hundreds of people turned up for the homecoming parade when the Black Watch recently returned home from Afghanistan. There is a tremendous respect for the way our fighting unit performs an almost unimaginable difficult task on our behalf. It’s about the re-assurance and confidence we feel that our armed forces are the best in the world. There is also the association with our local communities. Perthshire, Angus and Fife have always been the recruiting area for the Black Watch. Generations of young men have joined up with their comrades to serve in our local regiment.
Such was the furore following the recent announcement, that a cross party campaign was hastily put together at the House of Commons and within a few days we saw the first sign of a climb-down from Government. Philip Hammond revealed to the press that he was now minded to keep the names and we then learned that this u-turn was ordered from the Prime Minister himself. I also secured a House of Commons debate to question the defence Secretary about these plans. At the time of writing, this debate is still to take place
What we need to hear from the Defence Secretary is that he will maintain the golden thread; that the identities of our former regiments are safe and he is ruling out any suggestion that names will be diminished. Instead of running down our former regiments, this Westminster Government should be promoting them and parading them as an example of everything that is good about the army.