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Royal Scottish Army [RScA]

From the Highlands came spiritual fighters known as Scots, known for their bravery and strength in battle. The Scots bend their knee to no man. The Royal Scots Army was the army of the Kingdom of Scotland between the Restoration in 1660 and the Acts of Union of 1707.

The UK Army Headquarters Scotland is based at Craigiehall Camp, just outside the city of Edinburgh and is commanded by a Major General, who is General Officer Commanding the Army in Scotland and Governor of Edinburgh Castle. The Headquarters re-subordinated 51 Infantry Brigade to Headquarters 1st (United Kingdom) Division on 01 November 2014 and no longer has troops under direct command. However, it provides Army level representation for all Scottish based Army units and provides cohesion between the Army and the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Service Heads in Scotland. The Headquarters also undertakes strategic engagement on behalf of the Chief of the General Staff. This includes developing and reinforcing strong relationships between the Army in Scotland and the Scottish Government, Scottish Office, civic and business communities to positively promote the Army.

51st Infantry Brigade is the first of the Army’s Adaptable Force Brigades, which will be used for a wide range of tasks, including providing headquarters and units for lengthy operations, standing commitments, overseas Defence Engagement, and UK civil engagement. As Headquarters Scotland the Brigade looks after all Army units in Scotland and is responsible for providing Firm Base support for all Regular, Reserve and Army Cadet Force units. Also included are the four University Officer Training Corps. The first reference to a Highland Brigade was in 1854 when the 42nd (Black Watch), 79th (Cameron Highlanders) and the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) set sail for Turkey. Following restructuring of the Army in Scotland in 2002 the Brigade was redesignated from 51 Highland Brigade to 51 (Scottish) Brigade taking on the regional responsibility for the whole of Scotland with its Headquarters at Forthside, Stirling.

The six remaining historical regular regiments of the Scottish Division were disbanded and reformed into the five battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in December 2004, a reorganisation fiercely resisted at the time, notwithstanding the fact that each battalion of the Royal Regiment carries with it some of the traditions of its predecessor regiment – the so-called ‘golden thread’ much trumpeted at the time.

Early Discussions

John MacDonald and Andrew Parrott, authors of "Securing The Nation: Defending an Independent Scotland", a Report by the Scottish Global Forum 12 November 2013, proposed a rather more robuts posture, and provide rather greater granularity. They wrote: "The force structure we propose for a Scottish Defence Force is, we acknowledge, just one of several models which might be deemed ‘appropriate’ for the defence needs of an independent Scotland. It is a force structure that is proportionate to the scale difference between the UK and Scotland... "

Combat Arms

4 Infantry Battalions Active
2 Armoured Infantry Battalions Active
4 Infantry Battalions Reserve
1 Armoured Regiment Active and Reserve
1 Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment Active and Reserve
1 Special Forces Squadron Active
1 Special Forces Squadron Reserve
>4,000 Active and 4,900 Reserve Personnel

Support Arms

1 Artillery Group including
2 Field Batteries Active
1 Heavy Battery Active and Reserve
1 Point Air Defence Battery Active and Reserve
1 Area Air Defence Battery Active and Reserve
1 Engineer Group including
2 Field Squadrons Active
1 Field Squadron Reserve
1 Field Support Squadron Active and Reserve
1 Signals Group including
2 Signals Squadrons Active
1 Signals Squadron Reserve
1 Force Signal Squadron Active and Reserve
1 Intelligence Company Active and Reserve
1,600 Active and 1,400 Reserve Personnel
The UK Commons Defence Committee report "The Defence Implications of Possible Scottish Independence" printed 11 September 2013 considerd the Army of and independent Scotland. In its policy update, the SNP provides a brief description of the ground forces which would make up a Scottish army: "Regular ground forces will include current Scottish raised and restored UK regiments, support units as well as Special Forces and Royal Marines, who will retain responsibility for offshore protection."

The policy update also envisaged a Scottish army structured around "one regular and one reserve Multi Role Brigade". The concept of a Multi Role Brigade was envisaged in the run-up to and including the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), but following further cuts in 2011 it was clear there would be insufficient resources to implement this structure.

Keith Brown MSP testified that since the adoption by the SNP of its policy update, "the goalposts have completely shifted" in terms of UK army structures. He continued: "The armed forces units that we would have would make sense on a logistical level—what we thought were suitable for our purposes as an independent Scotland—but as to how they would relate to the current number of UK armed forces, it is hard to tell because it changes so much."

Keith Brown MSP confirmed that the Scottish Government intended to retain all current Scottish infantry battalions and to "reinstate Scottish regiments previously abolished". However, he testified that "given the numbers involved, that it would not be on the same scale as currently", suggesting that battalions would be smaller in size.

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Defence, stated in a 2012 speech that the current complement of the Scottish "teeth" regiments - the five battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Scots Guards, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - was some 4,100 posts. If the King's Own Scottish Borderers when they were amalgamated with the Royal Scots - a further 550 posts - were added, this would comprise almost a third of the entire proposed Scottish defence force. This did not take account of the support functions; the "tail". The tooth to tail ratio in the British Army is approximately 1:2.

The SNP also has a stated commitment to retain all current army bases in Scotland. Keith Brown MSP confirmed that the White Paper would include detail about this: "We think that we are currently well served with the bases that we have, if you look at the capacity at Leuchars, for example, and some of the changes taking place there. If you look at the capacity at Redford barracks, which is being sold off in part, and elsewhere, that capacity exists just now. There is no guarantee that it will exist at the point of independence. You will understand that we have to wait until the White Paper to see exactly what we will do about those bases."

"Scotland's Future" Scottish Government, November 2013

In a newly indepdendent Scotland, Land force capabilities at the point of independence would include an army HQ function and an all-arms brigade, with three infantry/marine units, equipped initially from a negotiated share of current UK assets. Special forces, explosives and ordnance disposal teams will bring the total to around 3,500 regular and at least 1,200 reserve personnel.

The units of the Scottish Army will carry on the names, identities and traditions of Scotland’s regiments, including those lost in the defense reorganisation of 2006. The proposed retention and reinstatement of historic Scottish Regiments clearly has implications for the size and structure of a Scottish army. It is not apparent from the SNP's published plans which Scottish regiments "previously abolished" it intends to restore or how that could be achieved within the overall numbers of personnel proposed.

  • a deployable Brigade HQ [presumably three infantry battalions equipped with the the FV430 series - one-seventh of the UK's 23 light infantry battalions would suggest 72 out of about 500 vehicles]. As of 2016 the British Army's 51st Infantry Brigade included a total of 8 active and reserve battalions.
  • two light armoured reconnaissance "units" [possibly Squadrons?] [presumably equipped with the Scimitar Mark 2 Light Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle - of 9 armoured Infantry Battalions equipped with about 300 Scimitar CVR(T), Scotland's share might be 60 vehicles]
  • two light artillery units [presumably batteries]. As of 2016 the British Army's 51st Infantry Brigade included the 105 Regiment Royal Artillery with three batteries using the 105mm L118 Light Gun. Equipped with the L118 Light Gun used by the 3rd, 4th, 7th and the 29th field artillery regiments of the British Army - the total Scots inventory might be 20 guns, about one-sixth the British holdings of 126 guns.
  • one aviation unit operating six helicopters for reconnaissance and liaison [possibly the Westland Gazelle AH1, a small, single-engined helicopter primarily used for observation and reconnaissance]
  • one engineer unit deploying a range of equipment for bridging, mine clearance and engineering functions
  • two communication units
  • one transport unit
  • one logistics unit
  • one medical unit

Further development of Scotland’s defense and security capabilities will be decided following the strategic review of security undertaken by the first elected Parliament and government of an independent Scotland. However the Scottish Government believed that the following elements should be prioritised for delivery as early as possible in the first five years following independence, building on the forces in place at independence.

Developing the All Arms brigade’s capabilities to include:

  • increases to strengths of the three infantry battalions (to a combined total of 1,500 regular and 300 reserve personnel)
  • upgrading of the light armour, artillery, aviation and medical units
  • increasing the strength of the special forces unit
  • increasing the number of personnel deployed to conflict prevention, disarmament and defence diplomacy

Overall, this would entail an increase in numbers, over the years following independence, to around 4,700 regular and at least 1,110 reserve personnel.

Scotland Army Equipment

2015 2016 2020 2025 2030
Personnel ,000 - - - - -
Active - - 3,500 3,500 4,700
Reserve - - 1,200 1,200 1,110
Equipment Source Inventory
Armor - - - - -
Light Tanks -20 tons .. .. .. .. ..
30mm Scimitar UK - - 60 60 60
Armored Personnel Carriers - - - - -
Tracked .. .. .. .. ..
7.62mm FV 4322 UK - - 70 70 70
Artillery, Towed - - - - -
105mm L118 / L119 UK - - 20 20 20


GTOW .. .. .. .. ..
Light / Utility -5 ton .. .. .. .. ..
SA-341 Gazelle AH1 FR - - 6 6 6

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Page last modified: 27-06-2016 11:34:05 ZULU