On 28 February 1916, James Borthwick appeared for the local tribunal and asked for total exemption stating: “I have a conscientious objection to any form of military service. I believe in the comradeship of the nations and the futility of war. War has no good purpose and to slay my fellow men means murder. Education not war creates good fellowship.”
He was granted a total exemption, but the military representative appealed arguing that “applicants objection to military service are simply political + are contrary to civic duty.”
As a result, on 28 March 1916, the appeal tribunal granted him exemption from combatant service only. He then re-applied for total exemption on the ground that his work was of national importance
He was assigned to the Non-Combatant Corps (2 Scottish) and court-martialled in Hamilton to 112 days hard labour in Barlinnie civil prison on 16 August 1918.
He was in Barlinnie civil prison from 21 August 1918 to 12 October 1916 when he was released to the Home Office Scheme in Ballachulish.