Armed Forces chiefs have angrily denied SNP claims they are
dispatching soldiers into primary schools and nurseries to "soften
up" children for recruitment.
By Simon Johnson
15 Jul 2010
Christine Grahame, a senior MSP, said she has obtained documents
showing that the British military is lying over its assurances it
does not enter Scottish schools without first being invited by a teacher.
Instead she suggested a desperate Ministry of Defence (MoD) is
deliberately targeting young children in an attempt to boost its
"flagging recruitment targets".
But the accusations were met with outrage by one of Scotland's most
senior Army officers, who said it receives numerous requests from
schools for soldiers to attend classes but this is never used to recruit.
Miss Grahame has previously stirred controversy by stating she does
not consider the Armed Forces a good career and recruiters are
targeting pupils in poor areas of Scotland who want to escape the
effects of the recession.
Alex Salmond has distanced himself from the comments, but she has
been allowed to persist and has tabled Freedom of Information
requests to Scotland's 32 councils.
She claimed the documents she was sent show that some of the schools
visits are at the behest of the Army, with chiefs confirming the
strategy is part of a "drip, drip, drip approach to securing more recruits".
"The MoD said that access is only ever allowed following invitation,
but as I have demonstrated there is simply no paper trail and no
evidence to support that claim as I had suspected," she said.
"These latest documents show that not only is the recruitment
strategy aimed at children in primary schools, but that
representatives of the armed forces are now routinely going into
nursery schools too.
"Schools are for educating our young, and not a 'recruitment
opportunity' for a Ministry of Defence increasingly desperate to meet
its flagging recruitment targets."
Extracts from the documents, provided by Miss Grahame, appeared to
show the Army invited Scottish Borders Council to send pupils to
attend a work experience programme.
Another from East Renfrewshire Council showed a visit was made to
Madras Nursery in Neilston, although it involved a submariner who was
a husband of a member of staff.
"Parents were invited to come to the nursery to talk to children
about their jobs. Invitation was by word of mouth," it states.
Western Isles Council confirmed none of their schools had issued
invites but one had scheduled a course with the RAF. Miss Grahame
argued that if no invite was issued, one must presume the Armed
Forces approached the school.
An email from another secondary school to the RAF, also released by
the MSP, asked whether officers would be available to provide a
series of presentations on interview techniques.
The request was made in response to a leaflet detailing the support
the RAF can offer schools. But Brigadier George Lowder, Commander 51
(Scottish) Brigade said: "We simply do not recruit in schools,
primary or secondary.
"The Army is part of Scottish society and an important public
service, and therefore supports school activities when invited and
welcomed to do so by head teachers and their staff.
"The Army gets numerous informal and official requests from schools
every year and gets no special treatment or access, but neither
should it be excluded or discriminated against."
He said the school visits support the curriculum and similar
contributions are made by police, fire, ambulance service and people
from other walks of life.
"It is a fine and honourable thing to be a Scottish soldier and we
have a duty to explain to Scottish children who we are and what we do
to protect our nation, and pass on valuable skills such as
leadership, teamwork and citizenship," he concluded.
Brig Lowder said many members of the Armed Forces, including him, are
parents and help their schools, adding: "This is not recruiting – far
He promised to examine any specific complaints or evidence produced
by MSPs. An MoD spokesman said many requests from schools are
informal or verbal.
The Armed Forces then put the details in writing, hence Miss
Grahame's assumptions the visits are made at their behest.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "The First Minister has previously
said that he does not support Miss Grahame's comments on such
matters, but obviously defends the right of backbenchers to make
public their personal views."