MSPs back further research on military school recruitment despite Tory complaints

Petitions committee seeks further round of evidence on military targeting young people

THE CAMPAIGN FOR TRANSPARENCY over military targeting of young people will receive further attention from the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee. 

A short session on the issue was held today [Thursday 24 November] at the Scottish Parliament, with the decision taken to seek further evidence on how military careers visits to schools impacts on military targeting of teenagers for recruitment into the armed forces. 

Campaign groups Forces Watch and Quakers in Scotland brought the petition forward, receiving over 1000 signatures and a range of high profile political backers. 

The committee, composed of five MSPs, decided to seek further evidence on the issue, despite objections to the petition from the group’s two Tory representatives. 

In contrast, SNP MSP Rona Mackay raised concerns over the group’s first set of replies on the subject, adding that the military has “risks that other careers don’t have”, and that replies suggested military school visits were “glorified” and “unpleasant” for some pupils. 

"It’s obvious from the responses received by the committee that there is a lack of clarity regarding the nature of armed forces visits and who is responsible for overseeing them.” Emma Sangster, Force Watch

There was “no place for this in schools”, Mackay added. 

Tory MSP Edward Mountain, a wealthy landowner who is himself an ex-serviceman, said he and his son were aware of the risks of joining the military. 

Tory colleague Brian Whittle also sought to pour cold water on the petitioners’ aims. 

However, Angus MacDonald’s (SNP) call for further consultation on the matter gained the support of chair Johann Lamont, meaning the petition will be considered further. 

Controversy over youth military recruitment has grown since a report was released this October linking early enlistment to a series of health dangers. 

Dozens of parliamentarians have signed a motion raising their concerns. 

SNP and Green MSPs condemn British military for recruitment of “vulnerable” youths 

Campaigners previously compiled military data which revealed a “disproportionate” 1783 visits to 377 Scottish education institutions across a two years, with at least a third of visits including careers advice. 

Following a positive appearance at the petitions committee, views were sought from public bodies and youth groups. 

The Scottish Youth Parliament’s evidence, among a small sample, said that the majority of young people “agreed that guidance should be developed” and also “felt that there should be public monitoring of visits to schools”.

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, said: “There should be clear national guidance about the content of such visits and when and where they are to be conducted”.

Forces Watch coordinator, Emma Sangster, said: “It’s obvious from the responses received by the committee that there is a lack of clarity regarding the nature of armed forces visits and who is responsible for overseeing them.

“There is no clear guidance and that is a real concern. We feel there needs to be a coordinated national approach on this.

“We would like to see the involvement of young people, parents, teachers and others in drawing up guidelines and a commitment from the armed forces to make accessible good quality data that covers the range of ways in which they engage with young people in the education system.

Campaign launched to reform "disproportionate" military visits to Scottish schools

“Forces Watch would like to see the approach to this issue come from a child rights and welfare perspective – one which recognises the UK as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Scottish Government as a body that leads on children's rights and welfare.

“We also point to the legal requirement of schools and local authorities to act in loco parentis and safeguard the rights and wellbeing of children in their care.”

Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer for the Quakers, added: “This issue needs scrutiny and public debate by all in Scottish society, especially parents and children themselves.

“Quakers in Scotland are led by faith to be concerned about increasing militarisation in Scottish state schools.”

The petition will be brought back for further scrutiny at a future parliamentary meeting. 

Picture courtesy of Defence Images

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