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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Have Scots Not Sacrificed Enough For This Damnable Union?

There is an old photograph currently being displayed in a Crieff shop window. It is of a young man in WWI uniform of the Black Watch. It is a studio photograph and he is standing with one hand on his hip while the other, rests on the back of a high sided dining room chair, clutching a lit cigarette between the first two fingers. His boots and leg dress are caked with the mud of the front line trench he had just left. His TOS is cocked over his right ear, as regulations demanded, and as he stares confidently into the camera, he just  epitomises the regimental motto, "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" or "Wha Daur Meddle Wi Me?" The narrative accompanying the photograph reads as follows, "William Duff of 111 King Street Crieff, was killed on the Somme by a sniper. William was 18."

Willie's name is on the Crieff War Memorial, across the street from my house in Crieff, one of 46 other Black Watch Privates killed in WWI, along with 3 Officers, 3 Sergeants, 3 Corporals, 8 Lance Corporals and 2 Pipers, a total of 65 men from a single regiment. But that is only part of the story as the other panels on the memorial hold the names of another 26 in other Highland Regiments and 141 from various corps and regiments as well as 2 nursing sisters. There were also 17 Crieff men who were killed serving in the armed forces of Canada, Australia and New Zealand and 1 in the army of the US. The total number of Crieff casualties in WWI was therefore 252. The casualty figures for WWII were considerably lower, as was the case for every other community in Scotland, and the Black Watch, although having the largest single casualty rate of any regiment suffered "only" 10 casualties. The RAF, mainly aircrew, had 16 and another 24 were spread over other regiments and corps, with another 2 nurses also paying the ultimate price, making a total of  52.

Every city, town and village in Scotland has war memorials which tell the same story but what is striking in the Tayside region, particularly Perthshire, are the numbers who served in the Black Watch. This is hardly surprising as the regiment was raised in Aberfeldy and the regimental depot was in Perth for over 100 years. Of the 50,000 men who served in the Black watch in WWI, over 10,000 were killed and 28,000 were wounded. Only the Royal Scots, with almost 12,000 killed had a higher casualty rate. Perth City had over a 1,000 killed and an unknown number returned badly wounded, to die as a consequence of their wounds within a few years after the end of the war. In 1936 Perth had a total population of 36,000 but in 1922, that figure had fallen to 33,000 and the braes and glens of Perthshire were certainly much quieter in the years after 1918. The regiment was founded in 1739 as a series of independent companies with the express purpose of keeping the peace in the Scottish Highalnds and between its first foreign engagement at Fontenoy in 1746, to its last as a regiment in its own right in Iraq, it amassed a total of 150 battle honours, won in every theatre of war in which Britain was involved all over the world.

Perthshire paid a high price for its commitment to the "local regiment" but so has Scotland, for its commitment to the Union of 1707. When Nelson demanded that "England expects..." at Trafalgar, he simply overlooked the fact that 25% of the sailors to whom the exultation was addressed were Scottish. English Ministers are fond of appealing to history, as they try to defend the Union, no doubt in the hope that Scots in general, are as ignorant of Scottish history as they are. Unfortunately, in far too many instances, too many of our people live up to that expectation. When Cameron did his quick romp through Scottish history during one visit in 2012, he said, "From Waterloo to the Second World War our servicemen and women have fought and won together." The loyalty shown by the Black Watch did not prevent the state murder of Farquhar Shaw and the McPherson brothers, as well as the deportation to the colonies of 200 of their comrades, none of whom ever saw Scotland again, for trying to force the British government to honour a prior agreement that the regiment would not be sent to fight abroad.

On the first day of the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915, of 69 battalions that went over the top, 35 were in Scottish regiments and 24 of those battalions, in two Scottish divisions, suffered 44% of the total deaths. There were another 11 Scottish battalions in the three other divisions which took part. Scottish casualties in WWI were horrendous, so horrendous that immediately after the war the government did much to prevent the true figures coming to light. The total killed as a percentage of total mobilised was 26.4% whereas the figure for the rest of Britain and Ireland was 11.8%. The Scottish figure for total killed as a percentage of population was 3.1% whereas the figure for the rest of Britain and Ireland was 1.6%. Only Serbia (37.1% and 5.7%) and Turkey (26.8% and 3.7%) respectively, are thought to have suffered higher casualty rates than Scotland. Wolfe's dictum, "They are little mischief if they fall..." would seem to have been followed to the letter. as over 148,000 Scots are known to have been killed in action.

That same pattern emerged during WWII although the casualty figures were much lower. Nevertheless, over 58,000 Scots died and the deliberate sacrifice of the 51st Highland Division by Churchill in 1940, in a vain effort to keep the French in the war, is another perfect example of the way in which the British establishment has repaid Scottish commitment to the Union. Placed under the control of the French, in an effort to persuade them that Britain was not about to run out on them, despite the evacuation of the BEF at Dunkirk, the 51st were left at the mercy of an ally that hoisted the white flag at the first opportunity at St Valery en Caux. The 51st was chosen to be the sacrificial lamb because of the reputation it had created as one of the top fighting units of WWI and the high regard in which it was held by the French. The fighting retreat from the Somme to Normandy cost the division over 1,000 killed, 4,000 wounded and between 8,000 and 10,000 captured, although many escaped during the long march into captivity.

The sacrifice of the 51st touched almost every home in the area of Scotland from which it drew its men and there was much bitterness at its sacrifice. One officer wrote while in prison camp, "One is forced to conclude therefore, that it (the division) was deliberately sacrificed as a political pawn. " The Duke of Argyll, who was a Captain in the Argylls at St Valery, said some years later, "It has always been abundantly clear to me that no Division has ever been more uselessly sacrificed..." I have known many of the men who served in the Division at that time, indeed my father's closest friend who piped my parents from the church at their wedding in 1938, was one who served five years in captivity, and I can vouch for the deep bitterness among many of them, at being asked to sacrifice their lives for an ally - the French - they found to be totally unreliable.

Many in Scotland have felt it was no accident that Trident was housed on the Clyde and that the first nuclear reactor at Dounreay, as far away from the main centres of population in England as it was possible to get. That Trident sits so close to Scotland's biggest centre of population mattered little to the British Establishment and we can be forgiven for thinking that Wolfe's dictum of "They are little mischief if they fall..." again played its part. Of course opponents of  Scottish independence will react in horror at such a suggestion but, in the words of another famous English woman who knew the Establishment well, "They would wouldn't they?" Nevertheless, they have been quick to acknowledge that any attempt to house it anywhere in England will be met with popular opposition. True to form and in line with the customary tactics of the UK Government and Better Together, Admiral Sir George Zambellas has warned that removal of Trident "would hit at the very heart" of the UK navy. Hammond, Secretary of Defence, comes north to warn us of the loss of jobs. Quite why the rUK navy cannot have Trident housed some where in England has yet to be made clear and Hammond's threats ring rather hollow given the underspend in defence spending there has been and the loss of 10,000 defence jobs that have already happened.

Quite frankly I am not overly concerned about the future of the rUK's navy and, if they want to retain their seat on the Security Council, they will soon find an alternative home for a weapons system they will never use and which they cannot afford. When Hammond and other Secretaries of Defence are prepared to GUARANTEE no jobs will be lost if Scots vote No, they might be listened to but until then, their words and threats are as worthless now as they have always been in the past. The SNP and Yes Campaign will do well to take note that many of us feel strongly that Scots have sacrificed more than enough already for this damnable Union. We are in no mood to sacrifice any more.

32 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more.
    Scotland and Scots have always been a useful expendible resource to have around when the British state got into trouble.
    Oil bailed them out in the 1970s and Scottish renewables will be used in the same way should we allow them to in future.
    What Scots who are undecided need to understand is that if we want to be treated as an equal partner in these British Isles,then we have to make our own decisions about what we are prepared to share with the other nations who make up the British political landscape and under what circumstances.
    The London establishment is stuck in a centralised post colonial view of the world which they think gives them "clout" in dealings with others.
    In reality,they only have "clout" because they have acted as a proxy for the USA in many situations where a fig leaf of respectablity was required.
    Westminster and it's press pack are going to have to get real following our independence and I am pretty sure that this is what is at the heart of Project Fear,fear about their place in the world and nothing to do with us Scots or our future.
    Thanks Jim

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    1. There is no doubt they still see themselves as "punching above their weight" and a few have even acknowledged that Scotland's resources have played a big part in that. Our manpower has been used and abused and the more Scots learn of their history, the less likely we are to repeat it.

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  2. Excellent and informative article. Thanks Jim!

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    1. Napoleon used to have casualty figures posted as high as possible on buildings in towns and villages in France, so that the people would have difficulty reading them. The original casualty figures for Scotland were given as 70,000 after WWI, a figure arrived at by dividing the total UK figs by 10%, Scotland's population share. It wasn't until the 1920s that the true figures began to appear, as the government did its best to hide them. Lying to Scots, on war casualties, oil revs, unemployment, poverty, in fact just about everything, is par for the course. The more Scots learn, the less likely they will swallow the current garbage that passes for "debate". How are things with you Ian?

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  3. I have a funny feeling that once again we sacrifice our future by dwelling on and in the past. The importance of the past is history, its the future to a more just, equitable and social society for Scotland which is in the minds of most striving for independence. How to achieve it is the compelling question , not what Admiral Blimp or his ilk says. To me, the way forward is for Scotland to be a republic.

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  4. We don't dwell on our past but no country should be ignorant of its history. There is something wrong with a people who have no interest in their past and ignorance of what went before, almost inevitably ensures the same mistakes will be made again. Scots' willingness to sacrifice their lives for England's greater glory is a case in point. The Black Watch, from Fontenoy, to Ticonderoga, to Tobruk, Korea and Iraq sacrifised of some of the best of young Scots. The loss to the country was not confined to those who were killed, it was also the families they never had and the potential talent we never knew. We are still doing it in Afghanistan and the evidence is there is the ruins of villages in every corner of the Highlands. When is it going to stop?

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    1. Jim, I never stated that we should be ignorant of our history, its important as a backdrop to where we are but we have to convince a generation whose future is at stake that we have the wherewithal to provide a better deal for them in the future. The sacrifice will stop when we put our energy into building a more caring society and rebuild our industries and institutions to provide employment for our citizens. It is time we upgraded our Country status to that of a proud Nation so fulfilling the debt we owe to those Scots who laid their lives down fighting for freedom as they saw it.

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    2. I realise that Austin but I don't think our energies will be re-directed until we are more aware of the mistakes of the past. There are war memorials in every corner of Scotland, with lists of names which should prompt people to ask about them but it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who know little or nothing and really don't care or are in the least interested. There is a plaque on the wall of the old Pullars factory in Perth, now the local Council offices. There are over 80 names on it - from a single factory - and 60 of them are Black Watch. I can only imagine how that must have felt.

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  5. My grandfather was one of those sacrificed at St Valery. As a Gordon in the 51st Division, he spent five years as a Kriegsgefangenen at Stalag VIIIb in Silesia. He said little about that time but cursed Churchill until he died!

    Also, the next part of Wolfe's "They are little mischief" quote goes along the lines of "for they are but the secret enemy!" And that's supposed to be your friends?

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    1. I knew a large number of men who were prisoners. At one time, in the 1960's the Lord Provost of Perth, five Councillors and the Town Officer had all been prisoners. A couple of my relatives were among those who escaped. Churchill was not a favourite. I was told that some units were told to give transport and supplies to other units in the BEF heading for Dunkirk because so much of French transport was horse drawn and the 51st had to stay with the French. Many of the men had no time for the French military but had great respect for French civilians, a number of whom were executed for helping escaping prisoners. Have been to St Valery a few times and been treated like family every time. The local Council chambers have La Salle d'Ecosse full of memorabilia of the regiments who fought there. The French units hoisted the white flag without telling the Highlanders and the Seaforths were prepared to shoot them

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  6. There is an excellent book, written just after WWII, detailing the disproportionate nature of Scottish war losses in virtually every conflict since the Union.

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/1qctl4nq10w4q8w/Scotlands%20War%20Losses.pdf

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    1. "The Flowers Of The Forest" by Trevor Royale, "The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson, "On flows The Tay" by Bill Harding, "Churchill's Sacrifice of the Highland Division" by Saul David are worth a read. There are several others specifically on the 51st.

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  7. ". as over 148,000 Scots are known to have been killed in action." Where did you get that figure?

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    1. There are a number of sources but unfortunately not all agree on the number of casualties suffered. In "Scotland And The Great War" edited by Catriona MM McDonald and EW McFarland, they give a figure of around 100,000 but other sources see that figure as being too low. Niall Ferguson's "The Pity of War" gives the total figure of 148,000, although he claims the total killed as a percentage mobilised was 26.4%. If the number mobilised is accurate at 690,235, the total casualty figure would be 182,222, therefore, either the number mobilised is wrong or the percentage killed is wrong. Trevor Royale in, "The Flowers of the Forest" comments on this inconsistency and he puts the figure at between 100,000 and 110,000. I favour Ferguson's 148,000 because the Royal Scots lost 12,000, the Black watch 10,000 Gordons, 9,000 and the HLI 10,000, which is 41,000 in those four units alone. As the war progressed, a percentage of those losses were not Scots, as the traditional recruiting areas for the regiments began to run short of men, but the numbers are not thought to be high and there were an unknown number of Scots who served in other UK units of all the services, as well as those who served in the armies of the Commonwealth countries. The example I provide on Crieff's memorial is replicated all over Scotland, in those areas such as the Highlands where emigration prior to 1914 was high. There is a small memorial at Baumont Hamel to the 6th Bn Black Watch, the Perthshire Bn. There are 18 names on it, of men all of whom were killed on the last day of the Battle of the Somme 16th November 1916 when the 51st finally took the village. Every single name is "local" by which I mean they came from places within a 10 mile radius of Perth. I took photographs of the memorial in the off-chance the Regimental Museum in Perth did not have copies, only to find out they did not even know of the memorial. I have no doubt figures will be debated for some time to come but I am happy that the figure of 148,000 is not far from the truth.

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  8. The figure of 148,000 which Ferguson quotes is suspiciously close to the number of names in the rolls in the Scottish National War Memorial. There are many instances of double and even triple counting in the rolls. Some men who died at Gretna appear in both HLI and Royal Scots rolls for example. Your regimental totals quoted above are based on the Rolls of Honour within the Scottish National War Memorial. How many non-Scots in the London, Liverpool, Tyneside, South African and Canadian Scottish unit are recorded too? In your last post you discount Ferguson's 26.4% figure but happily quote it your Blog article - double standards there. If you can't trust that figure why are you so happy to trust his 148,000 figure? The figure of 110,000 is probably about right with Macdonald, Mcfarland and Royle all supporting that number.

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    1. I am not going to accuse you of double standards but your own arguments are hardly water tight.
      How many names have been double or triple counted? How do they affect the totals and what percentages do they represent? Are ALL the rolls in Edinburgh wrong and if so, how wrong are they?You should have those figures as you are aware there has been double counting.

      I said there was an inconsistency in Ferguson's figures, I did not discount his percentage of Scots' casualties, a figure that has been repeated in a large number of publications. The figure that is wrong, is just as likely to be the number of Scots who enlisted at 690,235. When Royal mentions the inconsistency he does not say which of those two figures he thinks may be wrong, he simply questions whether 26.4% of 690,235 or 182,222 war dead could be accurate. Neither Royale nor McDonald and McFarland, say where they got the figure of 110,000, therefore they could just as easily be wrong. What Royale does say, is that the official figures given by the UK government after the War were a gross under estimate, and there has never been any doubt by any historian in Scotland, that that is certainly true.

      I specifically mentioned the memorial at Baumont Hamel for two reasons; the first is that the regimental museum did not know of its existence, therefore the figures it represented may not even have been registered. The second reason is that after the War when the casualty figures were such a controversial matter, there was an attempt by the authorities to suggest that the Scottish regiments were full of non-Scots, therefore Scottish casualties were grossly over estimated. The date on that memorial was 16th November 1916, over two years into the War and after the killing fields of 1915, including Loos, and yet not one of the names lived further than 10 miles from Perth. I also took photographs which I gave to the museum, of the Black Watch graves at Houdtot, where the remnants of the 1st Bn fought for over 3 hours after the order to surrender had been given at St Valery. There was no previous record of those in the museum either, therefore there are still gaps even in those places we would expect to find them.

      I favour Ferguson's figure because his depth of analysis of the War is greater than anyone else's and despite Royale's reputation, is certainly greater than his.

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  9. You obviously have no idea about what you are talking about. The museum of the Black Watch is a museum and will probably have no idea about quite a lot of memorials. Just because they don't know about it doesn't mean those men have been forgotten. You have their names, look them up on the Scottish National war Memorial database and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. Whilst on the SNWM database look up David McKinstry who died on 9th April 1917. He is listed in the Royal Scots and Highland Light Infantry Rolls. That is not an error, there are thousands like him - double counted. The rolls aren't wrong, and I never said they were. It's your figures, or rather Fergusons which are wrong, Just because they are widely quoted it doesn't make them right. You stick with your exaggerated figures, it suits your agenda but you are dishonouring the men who died defeating the Nazis by using their deaths for cheap political point-scoring

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    1. Now that we are a bit clearer about your own political agenda, this reply will be short and to the point.

      If there is double and triple counting on the rolls - thousands of them according to you - the rolls are wrong. I asked how many. You don't know.

      The figures you queried are from the First World War and - just in case you are not aware - those men did not die fighting the Nazis.

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  10. No, the rolls are not wrong. The men listed are entitled to be listed on more than one roll. It is when the total number is added together that the conclusion that it is the total number of Scottish war dead it is wrong. I cannot provide the answer because the number is not known. The problem is known but even Lt Col Roger Binks, the SNWM secretary to the trustees cannot answer that. I have no political agenda here, but I do object to politicians - whatever their beliefs making political points with. Scottish war dead. I would be replying in exactly the same way if a Labour, lib-Dem, Tory or even UKIP politician quoted them in the same context as you. It was you yourself who introduced the Black Watch of the Second World War at the end of your previous reply, I was merely ensuring my reply, like yours covered both world wars. Like their fathers they died in a war liberating Belgium, France, Poland, the Baltic states and the Ukraine from their German occupiers

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    1. Whether you like it or not, Scotland's War dead have been a political issue since before the Union of 1707 because of the way in which Scots troops were used and abused by the British state. The UK government of the day did their damnedest to hide the casualty figures from Scots and for very obvious reasons. There have been several attempts by Cameron, Hammond et al, throughout the course of the referendum campaign, to portray the contribution of Scots service personnel in UK's wars, as proof of their commitment to the Union of 1707. It is a ludicrous argument but I am not aware of your making any comment about the accuracy of their statements but you can always prove me wrong by providing the evidence.

      I commented on the graves at Houdtot as an aside, another example of gaps in the information retained by people and organisations that we would expect to know. Tommy Smith the custodian at the Black Watch museum in Perth was a mine of information and it surprised me when he told me he was not aware of the memorial at Baumont Hamel. We are talking about memorials in a foreign country here, at one of the most important battles in which the 51st and Black Watch were involved in WWI, not one of the dozens that have been erected in the UK. I would not expect the museum to know about every UK memorial, those in foreign countries at important battle sites, are another matter completely.

      You queried the figures for WWI and that was the basis of our disagreement, not WWII. You made a mistake including the Nazis, just accept it and move on.

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. Jim, you can hardly blame Adam Brown for mentioning Nazis given that you mentioned 51st Highland Division at St Valery, whom do think they were in battle with other than Nazis? It well known that the Scottish National War Memorial casualty figures are wrong, something they quite readily accept.

    For example every man that served in a Scottish Regiment is listed, clearly a considerable percentage of them are non-Scots, I can tell you for example that the 4th South African Scottish had a small percentage of Scots, most were Transvaal Boers, who found Presbyterian Scots more to their liking.

    We can't go on blindly trotting out the 148,000 figure for ever, it's simply not correct, the casualty figures are bad enough without misleading stats.

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    1. Read the posts from the beginning. The only figure he disputed was that from WWI. I mentioned the graves at Houdtot as another example of gaps in information in those places where we would least expect it, and as I pointed out.

      I am perfectly well aware of the controversy about the casualty figures and said so right at the start but also pointed out there are other figures which are contentious and which could be the cause of the confusion viz. the percentage killed of Scots who served (26.4%) and the total number who served. Royale, Ferguson and other sources put the figure at 690,235 and 26.4% of that is 182.222, a figure which all sources say is too high.

      Tom Devine in "The Scottish Nation" puts the number who served at 557,000 of which 26.4% lost their lives. That is 147,000, therefore two of Scotland's most prominent historians arrive at a Scottish casualty figure of 147,000. The figure is theirs, not mine, as I pointed out.

      Both you and Brown look at only the inaccuracies in the Scottish War Memorial and conclude the figure of 147,000 must be wrong. Neither of you look at the other factors, although I pointed them out to Brown at the outset. Perhaps Brown and you can take it up with Scotland's historians.

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    2. Thank you for your reply, I have actually read the post from the beginning. As regards the SNWM stats they have been analysed in depth, with full support o SNWM. Ferguson figures are frankly piffle, if you wish to see why I would recommend reading this discussion on the Great War Forum.

      http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=180471&hl= scottish statistics

      I have no political axe to grind, merely that the facts are recorded, and not the continuation of myths.

      In common with many families across Britain we lost family member, my Great Uncle Charlie.

      Regards

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  13. I see my last comment has been removed. A nice bit of censorship Jim. What happened to the freedom of speech which our war dead sacrificed their lives for?

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    1. You took an ad hominem approach from the outset. I don't do personal abuse.

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    2. You have tried abuse and now try condescension. The point is not whether I am thin skinned, it is whether I am prepared to indulge people by offering them a platform to sneer and abuse. I am not. Don't bother to respond.

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  15. I will bother to respond thanks but no doubt it will be deleted again. Once you've put your toys back in your pram perhaps you could respond to the latest comments about the validity of the statistics you are trotting out as facts?
    You know your facts are wrong and the challenges are right so the easiest option for you is to shut down the debate rather than acknowledge your mistake.

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  16. Scotland chose to join the union with England and the Scots benefited as a result. Living standards soared and job opportunities multiplied. The union has served them well.
    Many Scots are proud to have fought for democracy, liberty and their way of life. They were not the chumps you portray-they knew what they were doing and cheerfully accepted the risks, as did their English, Welsh and Irish brothers in arms. If you were less partisan it would be easier to accept the figures you quote. They have been challenged by very well informed scholars.

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    1. what a load of pish. Scots were used as cannon fodder. A soldier follows orders regardless. lets make this common knowledge and give these soliders the justice they deserve.

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  17. Balhousie is the regimental hq as well as a museum

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