ForcesWatch comment

‘Testing the Argument’: MSPs call for report into military visits in Scotland’s schools
20/03/2018

ForcesWatch comment

Members of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to produce a report into military visits in Scotland’s schools.

The move – announced at a sitting of the Public Petitions Committee last week – came as a direct response to our petition on the issue, along with Quakers in Scotland.

This seeks greater transparency, guidance and parental consultation around military visits to Scottish schools.

In a new submission to the Committee ahead of the hearing we analysed MoD figures, provided under a freedom of information request, which showed that 770 visits were made by the armed forces to Scottish schools between April 2016 and March 2017.

Nearly 60 per cent of these were made by the Army and 75 per cent of the visits promoted a career in the military. 

Now a report into the matter is due to be published later this year which we hope will make substantial recommendations given the weight of evidence behind the petition.

Rhianna Louise, ForcesWatch’s Education and Outreach worker. said: "We welcome the promised Public Petitions Committee report on armed forces visits to schools.

“It is vital that the report's safeguarding proposals take into consideration the evidence submitted by the Scottish Youth Parliament, Connect (formerly Scottish Parent Teachers Council), Together (the Scotland Alliance for Children's Rights) and Scotland's Children's Commissioner.

“Each of these stakeholders has testified to the current lack of adequate safeguards protecting young people from the military having unbalanced access to the education system for recruitment purposes.

“We are now hoping for an informed report, showing that child rights and welfare take precedence in Scotland over the military's desire to promote its image and to make up for adult recruit shortfalls with child recruits.

“Crucially we do not see this as a political matter but rather but something which relates to duty of care and the welfare of all children in Scotland’s schools.”

Eileen Prior, executive direct of Connect told CommonSpace that the parliament’s plans to report on the issue was “good news”.

Two MPs (Edward Mountain and Maurice Corry of the Conservatives) who are not members of the Committee attended the hearing and were given permission to speak, though not take part in decision making.

They both sought to close the petition as did their party colleagues Brian Whittle and Michelle Ballantyne who are PPC members. However, Angus MacDonald of the SNP said “attempts to shut down this petition are premature” and added that there is a “need for this Committee to compile and publish a report to give justice to the petitioners as well as to the Armed Forces.”

This proposal was backed up by his SNP colleague Rhona Mackay who said she had “serious concerns” about military visits, adding “we should certainly have a report and we need to get further information.”

In conclusion the Convenor of the Committee, Labour’s Johann Lamont, said a report was a necessary step in order to “explore further what those safeguards might look like” and “test the argument” that schools may be “railroaded in” to allowing military visits.

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