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The Golden Thread

I'm betting that it is now beyond that the Royal Regiment of Scotland is about to lose one of its five battalions. I say this because the government's let it slip that two of the battalions, the 4th and 5th, are under threat due to their poor recruiting records. I used to be a government media relations advisor and I know the trick: hint at  some really bad news coming down the pipe and then announce something that isn't quite as bad. With two battalions apparently facing the chop, at the end of the day only one being axed will sound like good news. The 4th Battalion's recruiting record is supposedly worse than the 5th's, so it might be the one that vanishes. The 4th may be handicapped by having Aberdeen, the most prosperous city in Scotland, in its recruiting area: poverty has always been the British Army's best recruiting sergeant. It also recruits from the old Highland Regional Council area, which is sparsely populated. The Army has just announced large scale lay-offs. Many suspect that the criteria for redundancy may include being on the verge of qualifying for an enhanced pension. Some of the soldiers being forced out are within months of becoming entitled to higher pensions. Such shabby treatment, if the accusation is well-founded, hardly encourages anyone to take the Queen's Shilling. By the way, only two of the Royal Regiment of Scotland's battalions have retained their Second World War identities – the 3rd, the Black Watch, and the 5th, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The 1st Battalion, the Royal Scots Borderers, is the result of 2006 shotgun marriage between the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers; the 2nd, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, came out of the 1959 merger of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry; and the poor 4th Battalion, the Highlanders, comes to us via the 1961 merger of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and Seaforth Highlanders into the Queen's Own Highlanders and then the 1994 addition of the Gordon Highlanders to the mix. Some might argue that the 4th Battalion's supposed recruiting problems are linked to the so-called Golden Thread of regimental tradition being broken and re-knotted twice. Others might say that it has to work with the worst recruiting area. There reports that the modern-day members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland are getting impatient with the Golden Thread arguments and feel they are harming the espirit de corps of new “super-regiment”. And it is true that Scottish recruits have long been channelled to whichever regiment most needed them, rather than on whether they come from the regimental recruiting area. When I was young a lot of guys from the Royal Scots' area ended up in Hong Kong with the Queen's Own Highlanders.

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