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More than 10% of soldiers in nominally Scottish regiments are not even British, according to recent media reports. Overseas recruits are becoming are bigger factor every year. Some continue to blame the amalgamation of the "traditional" Scottish regiments in the multi-battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland a decade ago. The critics argue that the loss of such names as the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers has eroded the local links and backing that the old regiments enjoyed and a price is being paid in poor recruitment. But the truth is that several of the regiments folded into the Royal Regiment of Scotland never did draw a sizeable number of recruits from their supposed home territories. There were few real Argyll lads in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the majority of the Queen's Own Highlanders were not from north of the Highland Line. Scotland has seldom provided enough men to fill all the supposedly Scottish regiments of the British Army. For most of their histories the Scottish regiments always had a substantial number of non-Scots. Even the Highland regiments, which tended to attract more Scots than their Lowland cousins, often had large numbers of Irish and English men serving in their ranks. At the end of the Crimean War there were 734 non-Scots serving alongside 6,164 Scots in the Highland regiments. Nowadays in the Royal Regiment of Scotland the 10% shortfall is filled by Fijians, men from the Caribbean, and South Africa.  The Scots Guards has always had a large contingent of Englishmen in its ranks. But back to my main point; even the decision to cut the number of regular battalions in the RRoS from five to four, basically a 20% reduction, has failed to bring the quota of Scots serving in the ranks of the remaining nominally Scottish units up to even the old, surprisingly low, levels they once enjoyed.  The creation of the RRoS only acknowledged that the "traditional" Scottish regiments could, at most, only add a tinge of regional identity to units which were actually composed mainly of men from the post-industrial West of Scotland and often officered by Englishmen. But even that recruiting ground is slipping away. Perhaps the time has come to look at why the British Army is not an attractive career proposition for young Scots. Scotland has changed.  Maybe the Army should change a little to reflect modern Scottish values and aspirations. Otherwise it is probably doomed to be continually scouring faraway islands to fill its ranks with "Jocks" brought up to prefer kava to whisky: good soldiers though most of them are.  The real question is why equally promising young Scotsmen people don't want to take the Queen's Shilling these days. 

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I was listening to a BBC World Service programme called Outside Source recently. It had an item about, Aleksei Navalny, an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, being accused in a television documentary of conspiring with the CIA and MI6. But Outside Source said the poor English in the documentation which supposedly supported the allegation suggested it was a clumsy forgery. This seemed a little ironic as Outside Source itself usually includes several red flags which suggest it is produced by people with little knowledge of Britain or of the correct use of English. Do Britons really "arrive to" destinations these days? Would someone from the British Isles really refer to the last letter of the alphabet as "Zee"? When someone broadcasting from London refers to the "East Coast" would they really mean the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and not Ipswich? By Outside Source's own journalistic criteria it would be easy for a listener to believe it is produced by some latter-day version of Radio Moscow and not the BBC at all. Alternatively, as the same sort of people who work at MI6 also work on Outside Source, the catalogue of errors in that spy allegation documentation perhaps prove nothing.

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I've got to say that I've been impressed by how sober and sensible most of the Irish coverage of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising has been. At last the notion that it was an undisputedly Good Thing is being challenged. Questions were asked about whether Ireland would have got home rule anyway, without all the killing and chaos sparked by the extreme nationalists. After all, the Irish Home Rule Bill had already been passed by the British Government and its enactment only put on hold until the hostilities which broke out in 1914 had been ended. Another question raised was whether the north east of the island, where most of the industry was based, might have been included in an independent Ireland if the nationalist killing campaign had not appeared to justify all the fears of the Unionists when it came to rule from Dublin. And the protectionist economic policies espoused by the men and women behind the Easter Rising would have spelt disaster for north eastern counties of the island. People also wonder now if the Rising did not spawn a cancer in the Irish body politic which has still not quite been expunged to this day. Many wonder now if the legacy of bitterness was really worth it. The Easter Rising was staged by a revolutionary movement. The problem with violent revolutions is the scum quite often come to the top. Violence is the enemy of justice. It is not only those who live by the sword who die by the sword in a revolution - quite often the exact opposite is true and the scum who murder their way into power are the most likely to survive.  The glorification of those who murder and intimidate to get their own way cannot be good for democracy.  I don't think there are many in Britain who will be celebrating the centenary of the formation of the Black and Tans come 2019. As the French found in Algeria after the Second World War, fighting fire with fire when it comes to terrorism is often counterproductive.

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When I was a lot younger, I used to look on The Union at work as a something akin to a nuclear warhead - its very existence stopped a lot of nonsense even getting started. There were things the bosses would like to have done but the presence of a union acted as an effective deterrent to their muddle-headed nonsense. I think what had set me thinking this way was an incident which happened a few weeks after I started as an office boy at the Glasgow Herald. One of my duties was to file a bunch of newspapers on some hangers dangling at waist-height. This involved working on my knees. When one of my knees started to hurt badly, I didn't immediately make the connection. But eventually, I had to see a doctor. I had a case of prepatellar bursitus: better known as housemaid's knee, though at the time Glasgow Herald copyboys and coal miners were the most likely workers in Scotland to go down with it, there being very few housemaids around. Anyway, I had to take a few days off work. A week or two later, those days were docked from my pay. It was explained to me that as a new employee, I was not entitled to sick pay. I decided to keep my mouth shut. Any employer that could inflict an industrial injury and then dock someone's pay for taking time off to recover from it was capable of anything. I wanted to keep my job. Now, decades later, it can be told. But I cannot help feeling that if I had been in the union, the management wouldn't have dreamed of docking my pay. 

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These days people move around more. A couple of generations ago there were people who had never strayed more than 20 miles from where they were born. And before television, all people had were the songs and stories of their families and neighbours to keep them entertained. Though, how much time and energy they had left for entertainment at the end of the soul-destroying, back-breaking, drudgery that many had to endure during their working day is debatable. Anyway, the point is many of the stories and songs helped people to know the history of their neighbourhood. And that history helped engender a sense of community. The people who organised the Scottish new towns in the 1950s and 60s seem to have been aware of this. East Kilbride, for instance, had a lot of people from Glasgow settled there and very few residents whose families had lived there for generations. And a lot of the incomers were Catholic. One of the few times folk from East Kilbride featured in Scottish history was when a strong contingent of men from the village showed up at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679.  They fought against the forces of the Crown under a Covenanter banner. That banner used to be on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, and may still be there for all I know. The little Catholic children in 1960s East Kilbride were encouraged to take pride in those Covenanters who stood up, like all good Scots should, for what they believe in.  What the little Catholic children were not told was that if they had ever met one of those Covenanters, things might not have turned out well for them. Those Covenanters may well have run them through with a 14 foot pike and waved their little bodies in the air behind that battle flag hanging at the Kelvingrove. But in the minds of those 1960s social pioneers creating community spirit through history was more important. Indeed, sometimes it is better to forget bits of the story and be happy than remember the whole thing and be sad. History is flexible that way.

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