national service scotland

Claim national service could be introduced in Scotland if Tories win is True

One of the Conservative Party’s top election pledges has led to a significant amount of controversy among young people ahead of the vote on 4 July. 

Unveiled by leader Rishi Sunak in May, one of the party’s key manifesto pledges is to introduce mandatory national service for 18-year-olds.

If Conservatives win the election, National Service will happen in Scotland.

Ferret Fact Service is working with YoungScot to get to the truth behind election claims suggested by young people. 

We looked at this claim and found it True.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project


The Conservative manifesto says the party will “reinvent National Service for this century” by making it compulsory for 18-year olds of any gender to do some form of “service”. 

This will be either “civic” or “military” service. Civic service would involve volunteering in the community for one weekend a month. Examples of this could be helping as an NHS responder or lifeboat volunteer. 

Military service would mean a year-long full-time paid job in the armed forces or cyber defence.

The Conservative party has said it would aim to have the scheme up and running by the end of the next parliament, which could mean it is not introduced until 2029.

This wouldn’t be the first time national service was required in the UK. The name comes from military training men in Britain aged 17 to 21 were required to do between 1949 and 1960. 

Then, men would complete 18 months of training and before being put on a “reserve list” for the UK military. That meant  they could be called up if Britain found itself in another conflict.

The Conservatives say the new form of national service would not be the same as this. 

How would it be enforced? 

The Conservatives say it would be compulsory but you would get some compensation for doing it, and have allocated a £2.5bn budget for the plan. 

Not many details are known about how the plan would work in practice. 

Rishi Sunak suggested on an episode of BBC Question Time on 20 June that potential sanctions for not signing up might be to have your driving licence taken away, or access to finance restricted. 

He said: “You’ll have a set of sanctions, and incentives, and we will look at the models that are existing around Europe for the appropriate mix of those.

“There’s all sorts of things across Europe, whether that’s looking at driving licences, other access to finance, all sorts of other things.”

Home secretary James Cleverley said there wouldn’t be any criminal sanctions for  those who refuse. He told Sky News: “There’s no one going to jail over this.”

Would it apply in Scotland?

In Scotland, things such as the NHS, housing, roads and education come under the control of the Scottish Parliament. These are known as devolved issues, and are decided on by MSPs at Holyrood. 

However, there are some issues which are still decided on by Westminster and the UK Government. Defence is one such issue, including the armed forces. 

So if the Conservatives won the Westminster election on 4 July, this policy would include young people in Scotland. However, current polling suggests that Labour will win the most seats. That party does not intend to bring in national service, so if they win this policy will never come into force. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

This claim is True

It’s accurate to say the Conservative Party’s plan to introduce compulsory national service would include Scotland. However, current polling suggests the party is unlikely to win the next general election.

This fact check was written on the suggestion of Young Scot, a national youth information and citizenship charity for 11 to 25 year olds living in Scotland. This collaboration aims to engage with and hear from young Scots, particularly focusing on the interests and concerns of young voters.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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