Academics: Armed forces are no place for 16-year-olds



A letter to the Guardian (12/09/17) from more than 50 academics has called for the age of recruitment ot the UK armed forces to be raised to 18. It backs a conference motion from SNP Youth in support of this.

“The UK is one of only 19 countries worldwide to recruit 16-year-olds. Other countries that do so include North Korea, Iran and Syria. No other EU or Nato member state recruits 16-year-olds. Some 2,250 minors were recruited into the armed forces in the past 12 months. The army alone enlisted 1,000 16-year-olds. This makes 16-year-olds the single biggest age group entering the army. The army states that it uses the recruitment of minors as “an opportunity to mitigate standard entry shortfalls, particularly for the infantry”. This is worrying because the infantry has the highest fatality and injury rate of any branch of the armed forces. Child Soldiers International has found that soldiers who enlisted at 16 were twice as likely to die in Afghanistan as those who enlisted aged 18 or above.”

An accompanying article notes that:

“SNP youth activists have said members of the party’s defence team at Westminster had been resistant to the idea and obstructive when they first called for the SNP to support an outright ban on the recruitment of minors.”

“Rory Steel, a national vice-convener of the SNP youth wing, said the party prided itself on upholding the rights of under-18s, but teenagers needed to be protected.”

The SNP dispute about the extent of the ban that the motion calls for is also covered here: Row breaks out in SNP over recruitment of under 18s into army

The motion has been amended by the SNP Defence Team to ‘raising the minimum active duty age from 16 to 18 for all roles in line with international standards’. It is already UK government policy to not deploy under-18s so this amendment proposes no change.

See more: legislation & policy, recruitment age, Scotland