400 military veterans urge no vote in Scottish referendum

Kingdom Of Great Britain

More than 400 military veterans including six former heads of the army in Scotland and 11 second world war veterans have urged a no vote in the Scottish referendum, claiming that arrangements for defending Britain would be "irresponsibly weakened" if Scotland was to become independent.

The letter, released through the pro-union Better Together campaign following the publication of a letter from another group of veterans calling for a yes vote, was accompanied by personal appeals from signatories including a Royal Tank Regiment captain who said it would "absolutely break my heart to see the Scottish element of the union flag unpicked and separated from it when I've fought together with my English, Welsh and Northern Irish comrades."

Names on the pro-union letter include Colonel Ian Critchley of the Black Watch, the first officer in the Highlands Division to cross the Rhine in 1945, and Lieutenant Generals Sir Norman Arthur, Sir John MacMillan and Sir Peter Graham, former heads of the army in Scotland.

It says: "As former members of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force who are proud to call Scotland our home, we passionately believe that the people of Scotland will be stronger and more secure if we remain part of the United Kingdom."

The letter claims that Scotland stands to lose thousands of highly skilled jobs in the wider defence industry – a theme on which Labour campaigned on Monday. The party used the backdrop of the Clyde to claim that a yes vote would put Scotland's shipbuilding industry at risk.

The warning was co-ordinated with publication of a letter signed by 20 young shipbuilders challenging the Scottish government on how it would preserve the sector, which was intended as a rebuttal to a letter in July by seven veterans of the 1971 Upper Clyde shipbuilders work-in who backed a yes vote.

Scotland's Labour leadership joined John Reid, the former defence secretary, at the Glasgow Harbour development in Partick to warn of shipbuilding job losses at BAE Systems if Scotland leaves the UK.

"In a competitive world we can have the richness of the skills and talents of people working in Scotland, here on the Clyde and elsewhere, and at the same time have the stability and security of a bigger unit like the United Kingdom around us," said Reid, who described the UK as a "job creation machine".

The Scottish National party MSP Sandra White said: "The fact Lord Reid ignores is that Westminster has spectacularly failed to protect shipbuilding jobs, which is why thousands of jobs have been lost from the industry over the last 30 years."

She said Scottish yards were the best place to produce the new warships, adding: "Quite simply, these vessels should be built in the Clyde yards as it offers the best quality and value for money."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Quinn, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 16th September 2014 00.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010