Top general seeks Tory leader's "personal influence" in Army Reserve issues

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 7 July 2017 in News

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will be expected to be an "ardent supporter" of the Army Reserve in her new role as honorary colonel.

Photo Credit: PA

Ruth Davidson will be asked to use her "personal influence" within Scotland and the UK to deal with territorial army issues in her new role as an honorary colonel, correspondence has revealed.

The Scottish Conservative leader has published a letter by Lt Gen Nick Pope, Master of Signals and Army Deputy Chief of the General Staff, urging her to be an "ardent supporter" of 32 Signal Regiment and the wider Army Reserve.

Davidson published the letter in a lengthy Twitter tirade against the "hostile and vitriolic" attack against her by "SNP outriders" after she accepted the honour in full army uniform.

In his letter, Lt Gen Pope said: "In day-to-day matters I see your role as ardent supporter, wise counsellor and trusted confidante. There will be times when, as the figurehead of 32 Signal Regiment, you will be asked to use your personal influence within Scotland and the United Kingdom to help to deal with issues particular to your unit or to the Army Reserve as a whole."

The social media spat escalated when Douglas Chapman, the SNP's defence procurement spokesman, asked the Defence Secretary to publish all correspondence relating to the appointment.

Davidson took time out from her holiday to launch a 35 tweet diatribe against the "bizarre" backlash by "senior SNP members".

"I know that the fury brigades on social media react to the slightest trigger, and I am a pretty stout veteran of 2014," she said.

"But even I wasn't expecting the hostile and vitriolic tirades that followed the event at Edinburgh Castle to promote Armed Forces day, encouraged by SNP outriders."

She added: "It's a five year appointment and work that I'll be doing in my own time. Just as MPs/MSPs act without fear or favour for anyone who walks through the surgery door, the approach is an entirely non party-political one."

She warned the backlash could discourage public figures from accepting honorary military posts in future in case they "get the Highland Spring treatment".

The Tories previously accused SNP ministers of "sending the heavies round" to bottled water firm Highland Spring after chief executive Les Montgomery said businesses were "fed up" with independence. The Scottish Government and Highland Spring confirmed that they had discussed the matter but said there was no attempt to assert political pressure.

Ms Davidson added: "The change in approach from the SNP these past few months has been really interesting. 

"Support them or not, they were always a serious party of government. But their crouching defensiveness over the sort of stuff they would have simply brushed off a couple of years ago has been remarkable to observe.

"The effort that must be involved in being so furious all the time must be exhausting."

Davidson pledged to use her new role to "raise the profile of reservists in Scotland", promote honorary posts and demonstrate that "they're not scary".

An SNP spokesman said: “Ruth Davidson’s summer meltdown suggests her holiday is long overdue and much needed after this bizarre Twitter rant. These are perfectly legitimate questions - it is only right that an MP can hold the party of government to account.
 
“Being quite this hot-headed is not a great look for a political leader nor, for that matter, a Colonel.” 

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