Academics back an SNP youth campaign to raise the minimum recruitment age to 18

It is unacceptable that the British armed forces continue to recruit people under the age of 18. We are academics who research the armed forces or who are concerned with the wellbeing of young people, and it has been brought to our attention that the youth wing of the Scottish National party is presenting a motion to raise the minimum age of military recruitment to 18 at the SNP’s national conference. We fully support the SNP youth motion.

The UK is one of only 19 countries worldwide to recruit 16-year-olds. Other countries that do so include North Korea, Iran and Syria. No other EU or Nato member state recruits 16-year-olds. Some 2,250 minors were recruited into the armed forces in the past 12 months. The army alone enlisted 1,000 16-year-olds. This makes 16-year-olds the single biggest age group entering the army. The army states that it uses the recruitment of minors as “an opportunity to mitigate standard entry shortfalls, particularly for the infantry”. This is worrying because the infantry has the highest fatality and injury rate of any branch of the armed forces. Child Soldiers International has found that soldiers who enlisted at 16 were twice as likely to die in Afghanistan as those who enlisted aged 18 or above.

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