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the home front

The Army has told most of its soldiers and civilian staff to stay at home for 25 days over Christmas.

It's a thank-you for sterling service. But mostly it's to save on electricity bills and other overheads as barracks and headquarters lie empty.

This is a start. Before we know it the Army will be saving lives as well as electricity. I am no expert in military logistics but I reckon almost all our troops could be home from Afghanistan in time for Christmas. With no need to go back.

The first step is to admit a British presence is not going to make any lasting difference in Afghanistan. The second step is to decide our boys and girls are not target practice for the Taliban in Afghan army uniforms.

Think of the savings in electricity (and lives) if many of the barracks, bases, and other defence properties never opened up again. Think of the possibilities of a stay-at-home military.

Granted there will be issues. Not everyone will be able to park an armoured vehicle in the driveway. Not every garden is big enough for a Chinook helipad. (If we had kept those Harrier jump jets, a few pilots could have turned home into a base.)

If our armed forces were about defence (and not pretending to be a world superpower) we could get by with a Home Guard. I am prepared to volunteer for the role of Private Fraser to advise on the extent to which we are all doomed. There is no shortage of citizens with experience of bayonets which enemies will not like up them. The order of the day is don't panic.

I have no O-level in geopolitics but it seems a home defence force works well enough for the Swiss who have avoided wars for centuries and whose army knife is the envy of the world.

Whether we are independent Scots or devolved Brits, there will be a need for a small professional army, navy, and air force. With the emphasis on professional and well-equipped.

We Scots do the military thing very well. We would have some kind of role in policing this warlike planet. And we will have to hold on to some small enclaves of empire. Our sojers, sailors, and airmen will need interesting places to go on manoeuvres in the sun.

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Families

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