HC Deb 22 February 1999 vol 326 cc18-20
10. Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)

How many (a) service and (b) civilian personnel are currently (i) deployed and (ii) based in Scotland. [70500]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson)

As at 1 July 1998 there were 14,208 service and 9,194 civilian Ministry of Defence personnel based in Scotland.

Mr. Savidge

Whether or not Napoleon was really a Scot, with his hand stuck in his wallet pocket, will the Secretary of State reassure the House that he does not view the thousands of Scots who serve in our British forces as quasi-mercenaries tainted by their association with England", to quote the notorious words of the defence spokesman of the Scottish National party, whose members are absent?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The nationalists' policies on defence are ill-considered, ill-judged and militarily unbelievable. To attack the Scots Guards, which is a proud and brave Scottish regiment, in the terms that the SNP deputy spokesman on defence did, highlights that party's fantastic view of such a major component of Britain's make-up. If the SNP took control and pulled Scotland out of NATO and into isolation—when every other country in Europe, it would appear, wants to join that organisation—Scotland the brave would be transformed into Scotland the isolated.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

The Government have announced that service and civilian personnel deployed and based in Scotland and the north of England are to have a joint headquarters in Edinburgh. Was that decision based on military and operational cost-effectiveness and nothing else? Were there no other political or financial considerations behind that decision?

Mr. Robertson

No, there were not. We considered the military and cost-effectiveness arguments for where the headquarters should be located, and we looked into the other arrangements that would apply to York. We came to a considered judgment that Edinburgh was the right place for the divisional headquarters in the United Kingdom.

We are all part of the United Kingdom, and some of us have every intention of ensuring that we remain so. The decision had no other implications, but it is a good signal that the British Army is still the British Army and plays a proud part in our affairs. Like many people I know, it would reject the idea of Scotland being torn out of the Union and the British armed forces being ripped up in some political squandering by a separatist party.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

I should be grateful if the Secretary of State could confirm whether any of the 200 Fijians he hopes to recruit from Fiji will be stationed in Scotland? Will he confirm whether that is a realistic proposal, as reported in Jane's Defence Weekly? From what other countries is he attempting to recruit soldiers into the British Army?

Mr. Robertson

I saw the Fijian soldiers on parade at the Edinburgh tattoo. They gave a fine display, and I understand that they beat practically every military and civilian rugby team that they were up against. Members of the Commonwealth serve in the British armed forces, but I am glad to say that, with an 18 per cent. increase in recruitment figures compared with this time last year, we shall depend on them much less than we would have done had the situation that we inherited continued.

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