THE naming of Stirling as the host of next year's UK Armed Forces Day has been greeted with scepticism by pro-independence campaigners outside the SNP Government as it takes place months before the referendum.

Ministers welcomed the decision to give Scotland the national event in June 2014, three years after Edinburgh took on the role.

The event will take place just after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and less than three months before the referendum on Scottish independence on September 18, 2014.

But a former Nationalist MSP who quit the party over plans to change its policy on Nato membership in the event of independence said some may perceive it as a "cynical ploy to flood Scotland with Union Flags."

John Finnie, one of two MSPs who resigned from the SNP in protest at the party's new Nato policy, said: "Clearly it's a remarkable coincidence this event is being held in Scotland next June but it could easily backfire if people see this as a cynical ploy to flood Scotland with Union Flags.

"People value our frontline soldiers but recognise that this is different from taking a mature view on which wars we engage in.

"I don't suppose that the Scottish Government is minded to be at in any way at odds with the UK military establishment at the moment."

Congratulating Stirling on its successful bid, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I know that Stirling, with its strong historic military links with the Army and the Royal Air Force, will mount a spectacular celebration of our military and lead the rest of the United Kingdom in honouring our armed forces personnel past and present."

Holyrood's Veterans Minister, Keith Brown, said: "I am delighted that the UK Armed Forces Day event is coming to Stirling and returning to Scotland so soon after it was held in Edinburgh in 2011.

"The Scottish Government has demonstrated its full commitment to supporting the Armed Forces community in Scotland. Our policies and initiatives have made a real difference and our approach has been warmly welcomed and acknowledged as being 'ahead of the game' in comparison to the rest of the UK administrations by Veterans Scotland and the military in Scotland."

Stirling's Labour Provost Mike Robbins, who leads a non-Nationalist coalition, spoke of the city's pride in becoming the focus of next year's events. "I am particularly pleased because it gives us the chance to pay tribute to all those who are serving in the British forces around the world," he said.

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said: "I very much welcome this announcement. The Armed Forces Day event ensures a bumper end to June 2014 for the Stirling economy and is a fantastic addition to the other events already scheduled for the area."

But Green MSP Patrick Harvie was sceptical about the timing ahead of the independence referendum, saying: "The UK Government would be ill-advised to try to politicise an event like that. If they try to use it as a flag-raising exercise all that will serve is to highlight the grotesque military inventions such as Iraq which they led us into, and how shoddily service personnel are treated when they return to civilian life."

Then Chancellor Gordon Brown created Veteran's Day in 2006 when it was marked mainly by events in London. The following year it was held in Birmingham and then in 2008 in Blackpool.

In 2009 it was rebadged Armed Forces Day.

In 2011 it was held in Edinburgh, next was Plymouth and then this year it was in Nottingham. The return to Scotland next year means cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have not year featured.