Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch presented a petition to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 15 September calling for greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation on the visits of armed forces to schools in Scotland. Over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces in a two-year period, according to a 2014 ForcesWatch report.
Child Soldiers International reports that in 2015 almost one in four new recruits into the British army were children under the age of 18.
They are directed into frontline combat roles, such as the infantry, which suffers more fatalities than any other part of the armed forces.
Children in the army have higher rates of mental health and addiction problems and receive lower standards of education than their civilian peers. They can also be made to stay in the army up to two years longer than adult recruits.
The public petition, lodged jointly by ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland, has more than 1000 signatories. Ekklesia reports that it calls on The Scottish Parliament Education and Culture Committee to hold an inquiry into armed forces visits, and for the Scottish Government and local authorities to:
- Produce guidance for local authorities and schools on how visits by the armed forces should be conducted, taking account of the unique nature of armed forces careers, and ensuring political balance.
- Increase scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools, including monitoring the number and location of visits and seeking to establish whether there is a link with deprivation indicators.
- Ensure schools always consult parents/guardians as to whether they are happy for their child to take part in armed forces activities at school.
‘Fun days’ often provide an informal introduction to the idea of recruitment.
Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish parliamentary engagement officer for Quakers in Britain, says: ‘This issue needs scrutiny and public debate by all in Scottish society, especially parents and children themselves.’ Emma Sangster, Coordinator for ForcesWatch, which monitors military recruitment practices, says,
“We hope this petition will spark a wider public debate and see Scotland follow Wales in accepting recommendations to increase scrutiny of armed forces visits and broaden the range of employers going into schools.”