SCOTTISH independence has scared off people from joining regiments north of the border, a former armed forces minister has suggested.

Conservative Mike Penning was labelled "pathetic" in the Commons chamber after questioning if this was one of the reasons for why there is a struggle to recruit for Scottish infantry regiments.

SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald denied moves for independence are putting off recruits.

Speaking during a Labour-led debate on armed forces pay, Penning said: "One area where we're desperately short in our recruiting, and struggling to recruit, is in the Scottish infantry regiments. This is an unusual event.

"Have you any idea why people in Scotland don't want to join the infantry, or is it something to do with that they're frightened they'll be dragged out the British army into an independent Scottish army?"

One SNP MP could be heard saying: "That's pathetic."

McDonald described Penning as a "thoughtful" MP before replying: "To answer his question bluntly, no, the threat of independence is not what's putting off recruits."

He also added MPs had raised other "serious" issues which are affecting recruitment, saying: "Even if Scotland was independent tomorrow, England needs a strong army because that'd also be in our interests.

"So I'm not interested in a constitutional bun fight."