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Duncan: Save the Scottish regiments

Speech to the Save the Scottish Regimers Rally, Edinburgh

"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and thank you for taking time on your Saturday morning to join us as we express our extreme anger at the Blair Government's decision to cut Britain's infantry.

Scotland's 6 regiments have battled for Britain for hundreds of years. Our soldiers have fought, bled and died in the name of freedom. In the last century alone, they have protected this island's liberty in two world wars. They have defended our interests in Korea and the Gulf. They have dealt with our own internal troubles in Northern Ireland. They have sought to keep the peace in the Balkans. And they have fought to give others the same freedom as we enjoy ourselves in Afghanistan and now in Iraq.

The fact that their efforts have been rewarded with abolition is beyond belief. The least our soldiers and their families can expect for their efforts is a little respect, but sadly the Blair Government seems unable to grant them even this. If only they had acted with the same level of honour as our soldiers have over the years, then our regiments would be fully in tact.

As we have heard from many speakers today, the Government's proposals are sheer lunacy. It is astonishing that, at a time of military overstretch, perhaps like never before, the government is cutting our infantry. In recent years, we have been involved in conflict and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq to name but a few. Protecting liberty, preserving freedom, and helping others to do the same is not easy.

Nobody ever said it was.

And in order to carry out those international obligations successfully, we need full fighting forces. I have said many times before that I consider these proposals to be a gross betrayal of the most wretched kind. However, emotional ties aside, the simple fact is that cuts in infantry battalions in the current international climate are sheer lunacy. The type of wars we are fighting in the 21st century require infantry on the ground, but the Government's proposals fly in the face of that.

Ladies and gentlemen the Blair Government may well think that this debate is now over, since the announcement has been made. Well the message for them is: "hear us in Edinburgh today and understand that it's not over yet".

This is not the end - it's not even the beginning of the end. It is merely the end of the beginning.

The message of Conservatives at the next General Election will be a simple pledge to take action to save the Scottish regiments. In the very first week of a Conservative government, we will reverse the cuts to the Scottish regiments and reinstate all 6 to single-battalion regiment status.

Ladies and gentlemen this campaign has representatives from all parties and you and those around you in the audience today will have differing political allegiances. However this is not a time for politics. This is a question of doing whatever it takes to save Scotland's regiments.

Ladies and gentlemen, by coming to this rally you have shown your commitment to saving Scotland's regiments. I pay tribute to all of you. Your cause is a noble one, and unlike the government, you are on the right side of this argument. I urge all of you to continue to champion this cause.

The fight is not over yet.

Your voices will be heard."

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