Military spending: Tanks still needed in British Army says general
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General Lord Richard Dannatt said the situation defied logic – stressing it was “not acceptable”. Plans are underway to cut the size of the army by almost 10,000, from 82,000 to 72,500, as part of the Government’s integrated defence review.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Lord Dannatt said in order to achieve such an objective, the Ministry of Defence was “going to have to get rid of four English battalions”, irrespective of what he referred as the “low” operational capability of Scottish battalions.
He added: “The politics override the logic. For the last two defence reviews Scottish battalions should have been disbanded but politically that’s not acceptable.
With Ms Sturgeon “rampant” in Scotland, and the Union under threat in the face of rising expectations of a second independence referendum, there was no prospect of Westminster rocking the boat, Lord Dannatt claimed.
He added: “At the very least one Scottish battalion should go to show equity across the country.
“Don’t take four English battalions and no Scots battalions when everyone knows the Scots battalions are undermanned.”
There would be a “political fuss” if only English battalions were cut, Lord Dannatt predicted.
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He added: “The emotive thing about cutting infantry battalions is that they are looking to all parts of the country as the infantry battalions are geographically linked.
“The solution would be to have an army of 75,000 instead and therefore not cut those English battalions.”
Robert Clark, a defence fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, said the overall perception was that troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland “are immune from the imminent defence cuts due to purely political reasons”.
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He explained: “Despite being amongst the most undermanned infantry units in the British Army, the Government is willing to reduce better-manned English battalions in order to appease the SNP.
“The only outcome of this policy will be to have a noticeably reduced operational capability for the British Army at a time of ever-increasing global commitments.”
A MoD spokesman said that the UK’s Armed Forces were “being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars”.
The added: “The Army will be fully staffed and equipped to confront those threats, including its armoured capabilities.”
Brigadier John Clark CBE, the Army’s Head of Strategy, said: “At this stage no decisions have been taken on future Army structures.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk in September, former First Sea Lord Baron West of Spithead said he had similar concerns about the Royal Navy when it came to the defence review.
He explained: “This review was trumpeted by the Prime Minister as being the biggest review since World War 2, certainly since Suez.
“It was going to be all things to all men, it was going to talk about our position in the world, the importance of foreign policy, what all the threats are, and come up with a defence and security plan that makes us safe, all of these things.
“And what clearly is actually happening, not least because of this damn virus but other reasons as well, is that it is going to become a cuts thing again.”
Nevertheless, the Government is committed to spending an extra £16.5billion on defence over the course of the next four years.
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