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Salmond faces flak on recruitment of military adviser

Alex Salmond has been accused of “politicking” over his appointment of a former military chief as a defence adviser, while the decision by General Sir Richard Dannatt, ex-head of the Army, to join the Conservatives’ defence team has been described as a “serious misjudgment”.

The views came from former Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, who told The Herald there was genuine concern about senior military personnel moving quickly to take up political posts.

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If the Tories win power, Sir Richard will become a

peer and join the Tory front bench as a defence minister.

Mr Ingram, the Labour MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, said he had the highest respect for Major General David McDowall, ex-chief of the Army in Scotland, who is to advise the Scottish Government on veterans’ issues and the welfare of soldiers and their families.

Alex Neil, the Communities Minister, said the general’s “vast experience … will be a huge asset”, while Angus Robertson, the SNP’s defence spokesman

at Westminster, said his “appointment clearly underlines how seriously the Scottish Government takes the issue of welfare for our former service personnel”.

Mr Ingram stressed he was certain Gen McDowall wanted to do the right thing by those serving in the armed forces but pointed out there were many groups, such as the British Legion, which gave expert advice on soldiers’ welfare.

The backbencher claimed the development appeared to be another example of the First Minister seeking to extend his brief on matters reserved to Westminster.

On the appointment by David Cameron of Sir Richard, the ex-minister argued that the former Chief of the General Staff had placed himself in an “impossible position”.

Mr Ingram said: “He has made a serious misjudgment. It will undermine him, not in the eyes of politicians, but in the eyes of those who served alongside him.”

The ex-minister noted how the appointment of Admiral Lord West to the UK Government was different as the former First Sea Lord was involved in security and not defence matters.

Already Lord Guthrie, ex-Chief of the Defence Staff, has questioned Sir Richard’s decision to serve one political party, saying: “If he’s going to the House of Lords, it’s best to be a crossbencher. I will give advice to anyone, Labour or Conservative, but I wouldn’t want to be associated with any one political party.”

Sir Richard caused a deal of embarrassment to the Tory leader yesterday when he said he had been asked to join the Conservative Opposition because Mr Cameron felt his defence team “lacked expert understanding”.

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