National service plan will threaten Scotland’s funding, says SNP

The plan to introduce national service would threaten funding for Scotland, the SNP has said, as Scottish parties responded to Rishi Sunak’s proposals.

The SNP set out its opposition to the plans, saying they are “completely out of touch with families and young people”.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie dismissed the plans as a “gimmick”.

However the Scottish Conservatives welcomed the initiative, noting Scandinavian countries have similar systems.

General Election 2019
Amy Callaghan set out the SNP’s opposition (Jane Barlow/PA)

Under the Prime Minister’s plans, 18-year-olds would either join the military for 12 months or spend one weekend a month for a year volunteering for civil agencies like the police, fire service and the NHS.

The Prime Minister said the policy would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world” and give young people a “shared sense of purpose”.

The SNP highlighted that funding for the plan appears to come from the UK shared prospertiy fund – a replacement for EU structural funds.

Amy Callaghan, candidate for Mid Dunbartonshire, said: “The SNP will stand firm against Tory plans to slash Scotland’s funding and impose mandatory national service on young people – showing why it’s essential to vote SNP to get rid of the Tory government and put Scotland first.

“It’s shameful Keir Starmer also claims mandatory national service is ‘needed’ and won’t rule out imposing it on Scottish families – these plans from a bygone era are completely out of touch with families and young people in Scotland – and deeply damaging to Scotland’s communities.

“Only the SNP can be trusted to fight Scotland’s corner and protect Scotland’s interests. It’s bad enough the Tories and Labour Party are wedded to imposing Brexit but to slash Scotland’s EU replacement funding by millions of pounds is a national scandal.”

Dame Jackie Baillie comments
Dame Jackie Baillie dismissed the plan as a ‘gimmick’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

Dame Jackie told Times Radio: “This looks like another multibillion-pound unfunded commitment from the Tories. It’s not a plan of activity but a review.

“And certainly in the case of the armed forces, the Tories have actually hollowed out the armed forces so that they are the smallest since the days of Napoleon, which is quite extraordinary.”

She added: “I think this is just an unfunded gimmick from the Tories, which they don’t actually believe in.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “We welcome this initiative, which will bring people together for the common good, in stark contrast to the SNP’s efforts to divide us with their constant push for independence.

“Similar schemes are already in place in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and France are introducing one too.

“The exact details of this will be worked out by the royal commission but the sort of opportunities being proposed can give our young people help on their future career path at the same time as contributing to wider society too.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Even by Rishi Sunak’s standards, this proposal is absurd, immoral and desperate.

“It has no place in a modern democracy, let alone in the manifesto of a party that is serious about governing.”

National service conscription last took place in the UK in 1960.

Mr Sunak’s plan involves a royal commission to bring in expertise from across the military and civil society to establish the details of what he described as the “bold” national service programme.

The Conservatives said this commission would be tasked with bringing forward a proposal for how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

After that, it would seek to introduce a new National Service Act to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament, the party said.

Home Secretary James Cleverly later said there would be no criminal sanctions for those who did not take part.