Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Storm over Lord Dannatt's 'betrayal of soldiers' comments

Ex-Army chief says ending Union would dishonour Troubles dead

By Scott D'Arcy

The former head of the Army's claim that a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum would be a betrayal of Scottish soldiers who died in the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been slammed as "bordering on being offensive and insulting".

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff between 2006 and 2009, made a passionate plea to Scots for a No vote, stating more than 100 Scottish members of the armed forces had fought and died defending the UK during the Troubles.

"What was that all about?" he asked. "The IRA fought a bloody 38-year campaign to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and join the six northern counties of the island of Ireland to the republic in the south of Ireland as one sovereign state

"Do the families of Scottish soldiers who lost their lives between 1969 and 2007 to preserve the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom now just say, 'Well, it no longer matters'?" he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

"I cannot speak for them, but I wonder just how much thought, appreciation and recognition is given to the memory of those who have fought and brought this United Kingdom of ours to where it is today, and where it could be in the future. And I really worry on behalf of the wives, mothers and friends of those Scottish soldiers who died to keep Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.

"I worry particularly about the extent that we will be letting them down if Scotland disappears from our country, on the whim of a few thousand voters willing to gamble on an uncertain future rather than staying within the United Kingdom, whose track record is second to none in Europe."

But his remarks were dismissed by both the Yes and No camps.

SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the former military chief's comments "bordered on being offensive and insulting".

"There are mixed opinions across the armed forces as there are across Scottish society."

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander also criticised the intervention.

"I am unyielding in my admiration and respect for the men and women of the British armed forces and the contribution that Scots have played and continue to play in those forces," he told Sky News Murnaghan programme. "But many British soldiers have given their lives over the years to defeat fascism and then to defend democracy and let's be absolutely clear: what we are witnessing here in Scotland on Thursday is an exercise in democracy.

"So I hold no brief for Lord Dannatt this morning."

Lord Dannatt added he felt defence was the "weakest link" for an independent Scotland.

It comes after a host of senior military figures raised concerns about independence in relation to the country's defences in the months leading up to the crucial vote, with former Nato commander General Sir Richard Shirreff even branding it "dangerous".

But Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, replied: "A dangerous and amateurish defence policy would be one that sent troops into an illegal war without proper equipment, while wasting tens of billions of pounds on Trident nuclear weapons that can never be used – that's the UK."

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Scotland's soldiers who lost their lives during the Northern Ireland conflict

Dougald McCaughey (23), from Glasgow, and brothers Joseph McCaig (18) and John McCaig (17), from Ayr, served with the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

The three soldiers were shot at close range by the IRA while off-duty in Belfast on March 9, 1971.

Their bodies were found by children on a quiet lane in Ligoniel, north Belfast.

It is believed they had fallen victim to a 'honeytrap' after meeting some local girls who lured them to their deaths.

David Hind (23), from Kilmarnock, a soldier with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, was killed on January 2, 1977. His patrol was ambushed by IRA gunmen in Crossmaglen.

Corporal Robert Thompson (26), from Strathclyde, another Royal Highland Fusilier, was killed by an IRA booby-trap car bomb on July 27, 1980 at Moy Bridge near Aughnacloy.

Private Brian Hall (22), from Dumfermline, a soldier with the Scots Guards, was killed in Cupar Street off the Falls Road on October 4, 1971. He was killed when a blast bomb was thrown by Official IRA members at an Army post.

Guardsman George Hamilton (21), from the Isle of Islay, a soldier with the Scots Guards, was killed on October 17, 1971. He was killed by IRA sniper fire while on patrol in Ballymurphy.

Alan Shields (45), a Royal Navy recruiting officer, was killed by an IRA booby-trap bomb which detonated while he was travelling along Middlepath Street, Belfast on August 22, 1988.

Mr Shields, originally from Glasgow, had worked in Northern Ireland since 1983. He was the first member of the Royal Navy to be killed in Northern Ireland.

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