The Defence Secretary said the SNP would “reduce the Scottish armed forces to a rubber dinghy and tell everyone else that it is all the fault of the English”
Fuming Ben Wallace was triggered into launching an all-out attack on the SNP’s failure to support Britain’s military heroes by a question about a “recruitment crisis” in the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
With as many as one in five recruits now coming from the Commonwealth, Nat defence spokesman Dave Doogan asked: “Is it the poor service accommodation, mediocre pay, lack of career opportunities or substandard equipment that is driving young Scots away from a career in the British Army?”
Mr Wallace, a former captain in the Scots Guards, was clearly annoyed as he hit back: “As an officer in a Scottish regiment, I remember distinctly not being allowed to recruit in towns or schools where SNP councillors ran those schools.
“I distinctly remember that the SNP was so unwelcoming to members of the armed forces it was having a detrimental effect on recruitment. I would be very interested to know if the SNP has now changed its tone.”
Highlighting improvements in military accommodation and childcare, the Conservative heavyweight added: “If he carries on talking the armed forces down like that, no wonder people are not that keen to join.”
Mr Doogan was not finished, however, and he went on to claim the “British Army is no longer a top-level fighting force” and described the military as “ornamental defence force – nice to look at; don’t ask it to do very much or sustain it for very long?”
In an exchange that was bad tempered even by Westminster standards, the Angus MP added: “The RAF takes 10 years to train a pilot in combat, Army procurement could not order a pizza and get it delivered on time and on budget, and the Navy barely has enough F-35s for one aircraft carrier much less two.”
Mr Wallace, a former Scots Tory MSP who is now the MP for Lancaster and Wyre, immediately went back on the offensive, declaring: “I am getting lessons from the SNP on procurement, when Ferguson shipyard is clinging on by its fingernails. When push comes to shove, Scotland buys its ferries from Turkey, not from Scotland, when it has a perfectly good Clyde in which to build them.
“The hon. Gentleman goes on about all the things that he thinks are wrong with the armed forces, yet he will campaign to break Scotland away from the UK, reduce the Scottish armed forces to a rubber dinghy and tell everyone else that it is all the fault of the English.
“The reality is that Scotland is a proud contributor to our armed forces – it has been in history and is today. Also, the accommodation, the experience and the equipment that the soldiers have today are far better than many of us had in the early ’90s.
“It would be nice if, once in a while, the SNP in Scotland did more than stand in front of ceremonial troops, and instead got out there and helped to recruit soldiers and helped the schools to talk about what is important about defence, rather than always talk it down.”
Top picture: Ben Wallace on a visit to HM Naval Base Clyde with Boris Johnston.
Yet they have always maintained that the UK would still be responsible for defense. Strange to think they want to be in charge of defense yet not be responsible for it.