Cuts in regiments may be delayed

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INFORMAL signals have been given to senior Army figures that the cut in regiments from 55 to 38, scheduled to be completed by 1995, may be postponed.

The potential involvement of the British Army in a United Nations operation in Bosnia and the increase in troops in Northern Ireland are thought be the likely reasons for the rethink.

Brigadier John Levey, now retired, who runs the campaign to save the Staffordshire regiment, said senior officers had told him they had received hints of postponement likely to have emanated from the Ministry of Defence.

Lt-Gen Sir John Macmillan, head of the Scottish campaign to save what he calls the 'sentence of amalgamation hanging over four Scottish regiments' said his 'allies' were now in high places and that he believed the Secretary of State for Defence, Malcolm Rifkind, 'knows we need more infantry and knows Scotland can provide full-strength battalions, when others can't'.

Sir John said the battle was not over. 'Our position is now stronger than a year ago.'

There appears to now be hope among the campaigners that Mr Rifkind, as a Scot, will know more about the Scottish regiments' heritages than did his predecessor, Tom King.

In July last year Mr King announced details of the Government's defence review. The Army was to be reduced to its smallest size since 1830, down from 156,000 to 116,000. In addition 20,000 civil posts were to go, and there were to be redundancies in both the Royal Navy and the RAF.

Although the various campaigns to reverse the decision initially depended on parochial sentiments - the Scottish campaign concentrating on the decision to merge the Queen's Own Highlanders with the Gordon Highlanders, and the Royal Scots with the King's Own Scottish Borderers - there is now growing co-operation. The changing world order and growing criticism among some politicians that the review may have been carried out too quickly, are the main arguments put forward.