Jul 27 2011 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday
CLAIMS that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders could be reduced to a Territorial Army reservist battalion have been dismissed as speculation by army bosses.
Widespread national media reports over the weekend suggested the Argylls, who recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan, were under threat and could be one of the casualties in a bid to reduce the number of army regulars by around 17,000.
Former army officer Clive Fairweather is quoted as suggesting both the Argylls and another battalion, the Highlanders, could be at risk.
The reports say the concern was sparked by a letter sent to commanding officers from a senior colleague.
Recruitment for the Argylls is mainly from Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Falkirk.
If the claims were correct many people would see the move as a major blow to the area, both in terms of the economy and to the Argylls’ historic links with the region.
A statement issued by the Army this week said: “There has been widespread speculation that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlands, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, is to be cut under further Army personnel reductions.
“These reports do not come from an official military source and are speculation.
“There are scoping studies ongoing in the MoD as to how these reductions are made and this will take time and planning. Any reports of specific battalions being cut are purely speculative and unofficial.
“Can we also point out that Clive Fairweather, who is widely quoted as being the honorary colonel of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, is not.
“He held a position with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Army Cadet Force, which he has recently stepped down from, but has never served with the regular battalion and is not a spokesperson for them. Mr Fairweather served his time in the 1st Battalion The Kings Own Scottish Borderers, which he eventually commanded.”
Stirling MP Anne McGuire told the Observer: “Although these reports appear to be merely speculative, they expose the extent of the Tory-led government's plan to make deep cuts to the army. Ministers have got to come clean about their plans and end the enormous uncertainty about which battalions and regiments, if any, will be abolished.
“The people of Stirling have a proud attachment to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, whose officers and soldiers have fought and kept the peace at home and in far-flung places around the world, not least today in Afghanistan.
“This government has already announced cuts to the size of the army of almost 20 per cent in just 10 months. They have previously given 100 per cent guarantees that nothing in the strategic defence spending review would impact on operations in Afghanistan. We need certainty that the government will not renege on this promise.”