Salmond hits out at army cap badge speculation

The Blackwatch homecoming parade
Image caption There is speculation that cap badges for regiments such as the Blackwatch could go

Alex Salmond has described any attempt to drop the names of several historic Scots army regiments as "arrogance".

The first minister's comments follow speculation that cap badges belonging to regiments such as the Blackwatch will go as part of restructuring plans.

Mr Salmond also accused ministers at Westminster of underestimating the strength of feeling such a move would provoke in Scotland.

The Ministry of Defence said no decision had been made on the issue.

Scotland's five battalions were amalgamated in 2005 under plans put forward by the then UK government to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

In recent weeks, there has been speculation that famous cap badges, including the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Royal Highland Fusiliers, would be replaced with 2 Scots or 5 Scots, depending on their place within the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Current proposals being considered by the UK government could also see army numbers cut to about 82,000.

Speaking during First Minister's Questions, Mr Salmond said that despite commitments given by Conservatives in the past, regimental tradition in Scotland were being "traduced".

He said the Scottish Secretary for Government Strategy, Bruce Crawford had written to UK Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond and the armed forces minister seeking clarity on the issue.

He said: "These ministers responded that it was too early to discuss these matters in detail but that Nick Harvey MP, the Armed Forces Minister, would update Mr Crawford in due course.

"We still await further contact from Mr Harvey's office."

He added: "In terms of the arrogance that's being deployed to elements of Scottish regimental tradition, there's the arrogance not just towards this government but to this parliament.

"When things are splashed all over the papers, we're still awaiting Nick Harvey's letter detailing what exactly their plans are."

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, told BBC Scotland that much of the speculation surrounding the issue was "wide of the mark".

'Gradual move'

He said: "No decisions have been taken about the future shape of the British army."

He added: "What we have is a process within the Ministry of Defence. The defence secretary has talked about this in parliament, which is reconfiguring the British army to take account the reduction in size.

"We've made no decisions about battalions or regiments anywhere in the country."

The speculation has prompted a renewed campaign from the Save Scotland's Army Regiments group.

Organisers said a Facebook page set up to fight against any move to drop Scottish battalion cap badges had already attracted more than 1500 names.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "A review of the future structure of the army is ongoing and no conclusions have yet been reached.

"As General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, has stated previously, the army is confident it can meet its target of 82,000 by 2020.

"This is in line with the agreement between the defence secretary and the chief of the general staff for a gradual move towards the new army structure so operations are not adversely affected by necessary changes."

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