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UK Government announces new 'Union Division' of British Army

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THE UK Government has announced a series of reforms to the British Army, which will include the creation of a "Union Division".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace explained in the House of Commons that as part of the "Future Soldier" project the Army will be reorganised as an "expeditionary fighting force" designed to be "deployable and lethal".

The Army will be made smaller but will be "more productive", said Wallace, with upgraded equipment, new experimentation and trials groups set to keep it "at the cutting edge" of technology.

There will be no redundancies, but 9000 posts will be cut.

One of the key criteria for the restructured Army will be being "at the heart of the Union", the Conservative minister told MPs. Part of that will mean basing an "increased proportion of the Army in each of the devolved nations", Wallace said.

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The Army will be arranged under four administrative divisions of infantry - the Guards and Parachute Division, the Queens Division, the Light Division and finally the Union Division.

"These divisions are designed to reflect historic ties, while also balancing their number of battalions and unit roles, offering greater flexibility and opportunity for soldiers of all ranks," said Wallace.

The SNP's defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald criticised the "politicising" of the division names.

"Attempts like this to politicise serving personnel, who choose to go into a career in uniform with a desire to protect, is a sign of how desperate the conservative government has become," he said.

"Soldiers need a real improvement in terms and conditions, not used for political aims."

Alba MP Kenny MacAskill (below) described the naming of the new division as "shameful".

"Given the eradication of Scotland's regiments this is a shameful and disgraceful disregard for Scotland's historic role in the armed forces," he told The National.

"You could only imagine the outrage by Unionist politicians if supporters of independence attempted to militarise the constitutional question - and this is exactly what the UK Government are doing."

Glencorse Barracks in Edinburgh will be retained, while Kinloss in Moray and Leuchars in Fife will be expanded.

The Ministry of Defence said £355 million investment will "deliver over a £1 billion of economic benefits to Scotland".

1 Scots will become 1st Battalion of a new Ranger Regiment, operating alongside three other battalions.

It will form part of the newly established Army Special Operations Brigade, which is expected to be deployed alongside allies to counter extremist organisations and hostile state threats.

The 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will continue to be based in Scotland, with 2 Scots in Edinburgh.

3 Scots will stay in Inverness until 2029 before moving to Leuchars - forming part of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The Scots Dragoon Guards will remain as a Light Cavalry Regiment based out of Leuchars.

SNP MP Douglas Chapman said Scotland still faces base closures.

Speaking at Westminster, he said: "With this statement and the complexity of it, the devil will be in the detail."

Major General Bill Wright, Scotland's senior general officer, said of the reforms: "Scotland will gain a major unit and Future Soldier will also see a higher proportion of the British Army based in Scotland.

"This provides an opportunity for more Scottish soldiers to be based nearer home, whilst delivering a broader range of exciting roles."

Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood was also critical of the "Future Soldier" proposals. He was concerned about the consequences of making the Army smaller at this point in time.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the MP for Bournemouth East and former soldier said: "If there was a more proactive UK foreign policy, if we were more ambitious in the spirit of 'global Britain' and engage in any serious enduring commitment, it would severely test our shrinking armed forces.

"Would the Defence Secretary agree that our world is becoming more dangerous, more complex. The scale of migrants fleeing failed states, with some attempting to cross the Channel here is a testament to this and it will only increase.

"As we wisely fine-tune our ability to fight, this is not the time to cut the defence budget or reduce our tanks, our armoured fighting vehicles and our troop numbers as we are doing."

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The Defence Secretary agreed that "the world is a more anxious insecure place" and that next year "will test many parts of the world".

However, he stressed that that is linked "to the ambition of any government of the day", adding: "He has said, and I understand his point that we should be prepared to do more, we should be more ambitious and I know he has called for I think 3% in GDP to be spent, what I would say is that the reforms putting forward today and the Army of the future as design matches the current ambition of the Government."

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