Scottish Referendum

Military Veterans Called Up to Support Better Together

1. Military Veterans on both sides of the referendum debate are being lined up to issue a plea for voters to back their campaigns. Those voting No:

a. More than 400 former servicemen and women have signed a statement arguing that Scotland will be stronger and more secure as part of the United Kingdom.

b. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: ” Britain’s Armed Forces help make this world a safer place. “We are stronger and safer together. These veterans know it and will be voting to keep Scotland secure as part of the United Kingdom on Thursday. I urge undecided voters to listen to their words and back a No vote too.”

2. Opening Narrative

Confusing Confusing. One of the Signatories, (according to the Telegraph is Major General Andrew McKay (Retd). But his views of the existing Westminster / Whitehall Set-up is well reported. He resigned his command in protest at the level of incompetence placing our armed forces in harms way, ill trained, poorly equipped and operationally directed by incompetent Westminster politicians from London, (5000 miles distant). His story follows.

3. 03 Jan 2010 Ministry of Defence (MOD) is, “institutionally incapable” of succeeding in Afghanistan – Major General Andrew Mackay, former commander of Britain’s military operation in Helmand province:

a. Major-General Andrew MacKay said the MoD had failed to adapt to 21st Century wars, instead issuing messages from London that often had “no relevance at ground level”. He said the British Army had, “consistently failed” to understand the motivations of local Afghans and called for a fresh “hearts and minds” strategy focusing on the local culture and economy.

b. His critique, written in a paper published by the Defence Academy, Britain’s armed forces university, comes four months after he resigned his position as head of the British Army in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England in frustration at a lack of equipment and resources and the direction of the Afghan war.

c. The 40-page report was co-authored by Steve Tatham, a senior commander in the Royal Navy. The pair said the work is the product of two years’ experience on the ground in the battle against the Taliban.

d. “From the top of the Mod through to the army’s staff colleges, the structures, despite the best will in the world, are institutionally incapable of keeping pace with rapid change and the associated willingness to adapt – and quickly – at the same time,” the paper concluded.

e. The MoD was failing to keep pace with wars fought “in the information age”, when every assault is open to immediate scrutiny, and careers in the army are built on “budgetary and management competence”. Messages from Whitehall officials were branded by the report “a diluted and distant memory” by the time they reached the front line.

f. An MoD spokesman said: “While the MoD will consider the findings of all its reports, they do not represent the views of the MoD or wider government.”

4. Major-General Andrew Mackay – His Shock Resignation and the Reasons behind It

a. Major-General Andrew Mackay, a General who led the Afghanistan campaign has resigned over his disillusion in the direction of the Government’s strategy. Major Gen Mackay, 52, who was the architect of the military’s new counter insurgency doctrine, is said to have told colleagues of his anger at the lack of resources being put into the battle. He is also said to be “disillusioned” over the failure of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development in fulfilling their obligations in Afghanistan.

b. The resignation came as a significant blow to the Government and the Army as Major Gen Mackay, who led a brigade in Helmand, was seen as a leading proponent for readjusting Britain’s counter-insurgency plan that has foundered during three years of fighting in Helmand. He is the most senior officer to leave the Army as a result of disquiet over the direction of the campaign. Other high-profile resignations have included Brig Ed Butler and Col Stuart Tootal who have both later derided shortcomings in resources for Helmand.

c. Major Gen Mackay’s time as the Brigadier in charge of 52 Brigade in Helmand over the winter of 2007 was seen as an invigorating shake-up of the direction of the campaign and a template for future commanders. Upon arriving in Afghanistan, he was said to have been shocked that senior officers were “making it up as we go along”.

d. He realised that the British had to fully engage with the civilian population and led from the front in the re-taking of the Taliban held town of Musa Qala, at one point coming under direct fire from the enemy. He was awarded the CBE for his efforts. In a secret memo published in the book, “Operation Snakebite” by Stephen Grey Major Gen Mackay said much of the equipment was “tired, limited and failing regularly”.

e. In the document to Whitehall he described a “grave crisis” over equipment. Scimitar tanks could not go into reverse unless their engines were restarted and Vector vehicles were out of action because “the wheels just kept falling off, literally” and only one fifth of machine guns were working.

f. Major Nick Haston, who was Major Gen Mackay’s deputy chief of staff, resigned from the Army earlier this year in protest at bureaucratic incompetence. He said troops had been so short of vital equipment that his staff bought spares on the internet. “I would say that some of the people that procure [equipment] in our Ministry of Defence haven’t a clue,” he said.

g. Major Gen Mackay also talked about failure coming from the “top down” and that other Government agencies were not doing their part. The ‘bottom up’ approach, of soldier slogging it out in pitched battles with the Taliban, was only buying breathing space. Without reconstruction stepping in behind there was little chance of a long term solution.

h. The book said the “central tenets of counter insurgency doctrine” were failing. Senior military commanders are currently fighting for extra troops in Helmand and admit that they are suffering greater casualties as a result of not having enough soldiers on the ground. Downing Street is currently considering sending an extra battlegroup to Helmand of up to 1,000 men bringing the total to 10,000 but is said to be apprehensive about public opinion, cost and the potential for more casualties.

i. While the Ministry of Defence insisted that he had gone for “personal reasons” one general expressed “deep shock” at his departure.

5. Where is He Now?

a. Major General Mackay now runs a strategic advisory company – Complexas Ltd. – which provides specialist services to the international extractive industries, specifically in Africa. He is also Executive Chairman of IOTA Global(Information Operations Training and Advisory Services), a specialised Information Operations company established by his co-author Commander Steve Tatham. In Aug 2014 Mackay and Tatham collaborated with Professor Jim Derleth to write a new paper on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Africa.

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