PERSONALLY I still think it one of the finest works of art ever to come out of Scotland.

I’m talking of the play Black Watch, written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany.

Many reading this will doubtless have had the enormous pleasure of seeing this powerful, poignant work of drama that formed part of the first season of the National Theatre of Scotland many years ago now. To say it was universally acclaimed would be an understatement.

Oddly enough I first saw Black Watch not in Scotland, but in the United States. I had gone there to cover the US premiere of the play in Los Angeles and was to watch it in the company of three US Army Iraq War veterans.

For all four of us what we witnessed that night was a visceral and emotional return to some of the most haunting experiences of our own lives. It was a rare moment when art truly imitates life.

“I’d never have believed that something like art, and a play like this, could capture what it’s like being a soldier in Iraq,” one of the American veterans told me afterwards.

All three admitted having come expecting an anti-war play. What they got, they said, was an insightful and moving tale of esprit de corps that any soldier, anywhere, could identify with.

I couldn’t help thinking of the play again and that sense of common spirit it instilled in us that night as reports surfaced this week that the Black Watch might find itself once again in the line of fire, albeit one not of bullets but of MoD cuts.

No doubt sensing the political sensitivity after the leaked reports, it was curious to note how quickly Army chiefs, presumably on MoD instructions, have tried on social media to deny that the Black Watch might be under the axe.

READ MORE: Scotland's famous Black Watch regiment faces axe under Tory cuts

Coinciding precisely as the reports did with the moment the SNP was due to publish its submission and critique of the UK Government’s now long overdue Integrated Review (IR) on defence and foreign policy strategy, it’s hard not to imagine some mischief-making was afoot, or maybe the timing really was just by chance.

Anyway, whatever the coincidence of the timing, here once again was another swipe at Scotland, guaranteed to raise the hackles as vividly as those red ones that adorn Black Watch caps.

And yes, before National readers write to remind me of the origins of the regiment, raised as it was to quell unruly types in the Highlands after the 1715 Jacobite uprising, let me just say I’m familiar with that and other historical details.

And before some also decide to write and tell me it’s no great loss to Scotland dispensing with those willing to do the UK Government’s bidding in what many regard as the illegal war in Iraq, let me just say hold on a minute.

To those of us outside the close-knit military fraternity, it’s often all too easy to see those in uniform simply as heroes or villains. As is so often the case, the truth behind the soldier’s role, like the motives that take them to war zones in the first place, is far more complex. And that, too, before we get to the nefarious motives of some politicians and governments. Black Watch the play illustrated those very points starkly enough.

Anyway as some recent writers of comments to The National’s website have rightly pointed out, there are other very good reasons why the loss of the Black Watch should matter to Scotland.

THE first is obvious in that should Scotland become independent it will be in need of its own armed forces. Yes, there are those among us who would like to see any independent Scotland on a neutral footing like that of Switzerland perhaps, but even that would not preclude Scotland from having an armed forces different in character and performing a different role from what we have come to expect.

Should that be the case then first and foremost one would wish it to be primarily a defence force, contributing in the widest sense to making Scotland resilient to the changing nature of threats posed by what many countries identify as hybrid warfare.

Scotland’s defence force could also play a key role in disaster preparedness, something the need for which the coronavirus has thrown into sharp focus. Should there be any need for an overseas role then let it be one as part of an international peacekeeping commitment rather than the aggressive posturing and disastrous intervention of the kind perversely embodied by the Iraq debacle and the politicians and government that took us into that war. These are all practical and strategic considerations that Scotland might well have to weigh up in the future.

Which takes me back to the Black Watch specifically, for besides the recalibration of any role the armed forces would undertake in any independent Scotland, we are not there yet.

READ MORE: David Pratt: What next in the battle of Donald Trump versus Reality?

For the moment any cuts to the Black Watch or its complete disbandment would also represent something else. For once again it would reveal the disdain prevalent in current UK Government towards Scotland and this even before Boris Johnson’s latest swipe over devolution.

CUTTING the Black Watch stands as further evidence, if needed, of the efforts to erode Scotland’s identity, history and culture in a way that is often not readily overlooked but goes on relentlessly and of late with renewed vigour and vehemence by this Tory government.

Such values are Scotland’s bedrock and provide our nation at one and the same time with its distinctiveness and common identity. Its erosion should not be accepted lightly.

As a 10-year-old boy I well remember being taken by my father and relatives to the disbandment ceremony of another great regiment, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who were barracked in my birthplace town of Hamilton and in whose ranks some of my relatives had served.

It was the first time I had ever seen grown men cry. Like or dislike things military, the emotions on display that day were a reminder of what esprit de corps or common spirit really means and why it matters as much to a people and nation as it does to a regiment.

That’s really why what happens to the Black Watch matters to Scotland.