Army plays down drop of 30% in recruits signing up

1 Oct 2007


THE army insisted yesterday there was no recruitment crisis north of the Border despite the publication of figures showing a 30 per cent drop in the number of new soldiers from Scotland in the past five years.

A total of 2,346 Scottish recruits joined the army in 2002-3 in the lead up to the Iraq war. By 2006-7, that had dropped to 1,617 - a fall of 31 per cent.

Critics, military experts and former army officers blamed the poor recruitment statistics on low army pay, more young people in higher education, the Iraq war, an ageing population and rising criminality among the young.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said that the decision to amalgamate Scotland's historic regiments into one unit was largely to blame, because it stripped regional loyalty and identity from the army in Scotland.

Historian Trevor Royle said: "Scotland is gradually becoming a place of more older people and fewer younger people. Education also plays a role.

"The latest figures show that at least 40 per cent of the army's target group are in tertiary education of one type or another. Pay is also an issue. We don't pay our private soldiers enough and then there is the long shadow cast by Iraq and Afghanistan."

Brigadier Alan Alstead, former army commander, said: "You can drive a bus in Edinburgh for 24,000 average pay, and 13,500 for driving an armoured personnel carrier in Iraq where you are not going to see your wife or girlfriend for six months and get shot at every day and the likelihood perhaps of being killed. It doesn't stack up."