Scotland politics

Concerns raised over school Army visits

The 2nd Battalion Royal Highland Fusiliers The Royal Regiment of Scotland Image copyright PA

Scotland's Children's Commissioner is to be asked for his view on members of the armed forces visiting schools.

It comes after MSPs heard claims that the military was targeting pupils from deprived areas for recruitment.

Religious group Quakers in Scotland and military recruitment watchdog Forces Watch raised the issue with the Public Petitions Committee.

Their submission said the MoD had asked Education Scotland for school deprivation data last year.

It followed an earlier attempt to obtain a database of sensitive student information for England in order to better target Army recruitment, the submission said.

It added: "In 2013 the Army stated that its schools careers advice 'is often more tailored and directed to those at risk of disengaging with education or work or those who struggle academically'."

Quakers in Scotland and Forces Watch are seeking guidance on how school visits should be conducted to ensure "political balance and offer a realistic representation of the role of the armed forces and what a career in the armed forces involves".

Parents and guardians

They are also calling for public monitoring of the number and location of visits, the purpose and content of visits and comparison with the number of visits by other employers.

Parents and guardians should also be consulted as to whether they are happy for their child to take part in armed forces' activities at school, they said.

Committee convener Johann Lamont said MSPs should ask children's commissioner Tam Baillie for his views, as well as the Army, the Scottish government, councils, the Scottish Youth Parliament and Skills Development Scotland.

Ms Lamont said: "I can see in some localities with a strong connection to the army individual schools might be very keen on this but in other areas there is less of a connection.

"There is a dilemma between particular communities being targeted, but also recognising that some young people can potentially get good employment outcomes from making an active choice to go into the armed forces.

"We need to get a sense of what that looks like, what the safeguards are and the extent to which it is not being targeted at particular communities."