Prime Minister Boris Johnson has guaranteed the future of The Black Watch and vowed to deliver new shipbuilding jobs and investment to Scotland.
The Conservative leader insisted there was “absolutely no threat” to the 3 Scots battalion, just days after it was reported that the famous unit could be lost to cutbacks.
Confirmation that the historic Red Hackle would fight another day was met with relief in its traditional Tayside recruiting ground, and in the Highlands, where the battalion is currently based, at Fort George.
The Black Watch is going nowhere.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) November 19, 2020
Mr Johnson secured its future as he pledged an additional £16.5 billion of spending on defence over the next four years.
He said it would mean the UK was committing more to the military than any other European country and any Nato ally, except the US.
Quizzed about the threat to The Black Watch, the prime minister said: “What I can say is that there is absolutely no threat to the Black Watch, to DFID in East Kilbride or to any of the other fantastic investments that this package brings to Scotland.
“It is a fantastic thing for our country and for our union.”
Rosyth yard will benefit
A key element of the package was investment in shipbuilding to “restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe”.
It involved taking forward plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates, as well as support ships for the two recently-built Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Mr Johnson added: “We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates.
“This will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK, in Glasgow and Rosyth, Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead, guaranteeing jobs and illuminating the benefits of the union in the white light of the arc welder’s torch.
“If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy.”
Labour say government lacks ‘clear strategy’
Labour leader Keir Starmer questioned the government’s overall strategy, and where the funding would be sourced.
He said: “This is a time of huge global uncertainty. It is time for Britain to emerge from a decade of decline.
“I know that the prime minister is always keen to talk about the bits of government that he enjoys — big announcements, space programmes, moonshots — but this statement shows that the government still lack a clear strategy, a coherent vision for Britain in the world or any idea of how the promises that the prime minister makes will actually be delivered.”
Delighted to receive a commitment towards the future of the Black Watch Battalion as my @theSNP colleagues and I have been campaigning for. However, per the review £billions are still being wasted on Trident which Scotland remains opposed to, these vanity projects aren't welcome. pic.twitter.com/wC4nyvxFWR
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) November 19, 2020
PM’s ‘priorities all wrong’
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also raised concerns, saying: “The SNP also has serious reservations regarding such a windfall to defence spending during these unprecedented times of hardship for so many.
“This review will reportedly see the UK as Europe’s biggest defence spender, when just three weeks ago this government refused to provide free school meals for children during the holidays.
“We have learned that the UK Government are considering cutting the overseas aid budget by billions of pounds.
“The prime minister may use the term ‘global Britain’, but on these benches we believe the prime minister has his priorities all wrong.”
DFID in East Kildbride
Mr Johnson insisted that The Black Watch and Department for International Development (DFID) jobs would be at risk if Scotland became independent.
He said: “It is preposterous to listen to the Scottish National party talking about its desire to support defence spending when everybody knows fine well that it is thanks to UK-wide investments that we are able to deliver not just The Black Watch and DFID in East Kilbride, but a fantastic programme of shipbuilding in Govan and Rosyth.
“Under his plans, it is not just that there will be no deterrent; there will be no shipbuilding and there will be no Black Watch in the land of the SNP. That is the reality.”
I called for reassurances on the future of the Black Watch & I’m delighted that it has now been confirmed.
The UK Government’s £16.5billion boost to the Armed Forces will deliver real benefits to Scottish shipbuilding and the thousands of service personnel based across Scotland. pic.twitter.com/qCBAS5V4yb
— Douglas Ross MP (@Douglas4Moray) November 19, 2020
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross welcomed the statement and the decision to spare The Black Watch.
“I called for reassurances that the future of The Black Watch would be safe and secure for years to come and I’m delighted that we now have that confirmation,” the Moray MP said.
“The UK Government’s £16.5bn boost to the armed forces will deliver real benefits to Scottish shipbuilding and the thousands of service personnel based across Scotland.
“The Black Watch plays a vital role in our armed forces and is a real symbol of our shared history, so it’s very welcome that its future is secured beyond doubt.”