I am pleased to present to you the Scottish Government's refreshed Action Plan detailing how we intend to continue to take forward the Strategy for Our Veterans in Scotland.
Here in Scotland we have a thriving and active veteran community and this plan represents a uniquely Scottish, collaborative approach to addressing the wants and needs of this community. I am pleased that this action plan reflects the important services and support which the Scottish Government and our partners are able to provide.
Much has changed since our original action plan was published in 2020. The two-year period since then has of course been like no other. We have faced huge challenges, from healthcare to employment, and of course the difficult fundraising environment which is so critical to the organisations which work hard to support our veterans.
We recognise the impact that the pandemic has had on the entire veterans sector and we have therefore taken this opportunity to take a look at the extent to which our existing commitments remain valid and where there may be opportunities to add more detail to these commitments or add new ones.
While this plan does not represent a wholesale change to our approach – we see this as a long-term effort to take place over a number of years – we have conducted a light-touch consultation with key partners and stakeholders across Scotland, to ensure that what is produced reflects, to the fullest extent possible, the views of the very people we are all seeking to support.
Our consultation has told us that, as most of our existing commitments are of a long-term nature, they are still extant and that the work currently underway should continue. I believe that there is a real value in committing to long-term goals and continually working to achieve them, and I am pleased to report that for a number of our 2020 commitments, we have been able to evidence real success and therefore we have identified that those commitments have been addressed. For example we have been able to expand the criteria for the Scottish Veterans Fund, to emphasise inclusion and social integration, and to expand the criteria for the Workplace Equality Fund, to incorporate the Armed Forces community, including veterans and spouses.
I am particularly pleased to highlight our achievements to improve our healthcare provision for veterans, and through the Veterans Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan which was published on 21 December 2021 we will work to ensure that veterans have parity of care, no matter where they are located in Scotland. We will also continue to provide funding for the provision of a range of specialist and community based services for veterans resident in Scotland.
We have also identified seven important new commitments which will enable us to expand our support to our veterans and their families. Of real importance will be our work with partners to ensure the contributions of veterans are properly recognised and understood by wider society.
While much has been achieved since our original plan was published in 2020, there is always more to be done and I am continually grateful to all our partners across all sectors who continue to work with us to deliver the aims and outcomes of the Strategy. Scotland greatly values its veterans and their families and I look forward to seeing the actions we have identified here being taken forward, and our veterans community going from strength to strength.
Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans
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