SCOTTISH soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been given just 72 hours to decide whether to uproot to Belfast – or quit their unit.
Troops on the front line are among 600 members of 1 Scots, many with wives and families, who had until today to decide to move from Edinburgh to Northern Ireland.
Those who decide to stay in Scotland will be forced to quit 1 Scots and leave behind their comrades.
They will then have to apply to join another infantry battalion, meaning they will almost certainly have to move anyway.
The Royal Scots Borderers, 1 Scots, currently based at Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh, found out they would be moving to Northern Ireland as part of an Army shake-up announced this week.
Army wives spoke of their shock at the tight deadline, and Labour called on the MoD to give soldiers longer to make the decision.
One Army wife said her husband felt “sick” at the time-scale, adding: “He is on the front line.
“It’s just not fair to be put under that pressure when he is due home in a few weeks.”
Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: “It is totally out of order that our troops are being asked to make a decision about uprooting families to Belfast with just three days’ notice.
“This is a shameful way to treat our heroes.
“Service personnel and their families should have time to make such important decisions with the full facts available.
“Rushing those who serve their contry in this way is unfair and must be rethought.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond revealed on Tuesday the number of troops based in Edinburgh would be reduced by around 40%, as part of a major defence shake-up.
Though the battalion will be moving to Belfast, soldiers can apply to join another battalion or regiment, or apply for their families to stay in married quarters.
But there is no guarantee.
The army wife, who asked not to be named, said: “Some of our soldiers, my husband included, are still out in Afghanistan and they are expected to fill in a form by today, stating their preferred posting location, with little or no chance to communicate with family.
“He is struggling to decide what to do.”
The family have lived in Edinburgh since 2007, and she can only speak to her husband by phone for 20 minutes once a week.
She continued: “My career is in Edinburgh – I work as a secondary teacher – and our son is in Gaelic medium education.
“I will have to fight and put in a claim to try to retain a roof over our head but there’s no guarantee the army will let us remain in our home.”
The wife of another serving soldier said her husband had been asked to make a decision “there and then” when told the news at a briefing in Afghanistan.
She said: “We want to stay in Edinburgh and had discussed it beforehand so he put in for a transfer.
“It’s horrible that they’re putting all this stress on them when they’re not even home yet.”
Another wife said her husband had applied for redundancy because he was being “treated like dirt.”
She said: “He’s had enough of it all. Even if he doesn’t get it, I’m not moving to Northern Ireland.
“There is no way I would take my child there.”
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart said: “It’s good that a choice is being offered, but to be given three days to make it is just nonsense.
“No-one should be making a decision which potentially affects things like schooling when they can’t discuss it properly with the family.”
An Army spokeswoman said soldiers were told informally several months ago they would have to decide on staying in the battalion.
She said: “If soldiers don’t want to stay in this particular battalion they can apply to move.
“It’s a short deadline, but they were told months ago there would be shake-up in terms of battalions.
“Soldiers have to move as part of their job.”
The move will take place next year, she said.