Scottish regiments face axe in cutbacks

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The Independent Online

The British Army could lose up to 10 of its most famous regiments, including the illustrious Royal Scots and the Black Watch, in the largest reorganisation of the armed forces for half a century, it was reported yesterday.

Other regiments to be disbanded include the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph. A battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment and at least one of the two battalions of Gurkhas will also be cut, although defence chiefs hope to avoid large-scale redundancies by achieving the fall in numbers through natural wastage and transferring soldiers to other units.

More than 9,000 soldiers need to be cut as a direct result of the Northern Ireland peace dividend, where troop numbers are to be scaled down to 5,000 by April 2005. As well as the withdrawal of troops from Ulster, the problem of recruiting and retaining soldiers by some regiments is believed to be a factor in the cuts.

Infantry regiments should have about 650 troops at full strength, but many battalions, especially those in the Scottish Division, have consistently failed to achieve this, meaning they need to be reinforced by other units when on deployment.

The Royal Scots, which was formed in 1633, is the Army's oldest regiment. The Black Watch is 250 years old and it refers to itself as Scotland's "premier regiment".

The Conservative's defence spokesman, Nicholas Soames, criticised the proposals. "There are no circumstances that would merit a cut in the infantry at a time when the world has never seemed more dangerous," he said.

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