Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Foreword
This is the sixth annual update to Parliament on support for the veterans and Armed Forces Community in Scotland and once again I am pleased to be able to provide an update on the excellent work that has been undertaken over the previous 12 months. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, I have seen real progress being made this year across a wide range of areas of support provided to veterans, Service leavers and their families. Challenges clearly remain and I am aware that Covid is still very much present in our lives, however, we continue to see a return to a level of normality we have not seen since the start of the pandemic.
On a personal level I have undertaken numerous visits to veterans charities and organisations and have had meetings with some of our key partners in person over the last year, something which once was so routine but now signals real progress and a welcome return for us all. I was privileged to be able to attend a special memorial event with the McCrae Battalion Trust at the Contalmaison Cairn in Northern France to honour those who fell during the Battle of the Somme. We must remember the past but also not forget to support the current members of our veterans community. I am proud of the collaborative work we do in Scotland on this.
It is this coming together that is so important in our work to support our veteran community. I can confirm that this year the Scottish Government has continued to fund the Unforgotten Forces Consortium, contributing £250,000 to support their work in improving the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for older veterans in Scotland.
We have also been able to increase the Scottish Veterans Fund pot to £500,000 per annum to provide greater support to veterans and their families. This year, we particularly prioritised projects offering support to Early Service Leavers and projects encouraging collaborative working in the veterans community.
In total, 14 new projects received funding across a range of organisations including employment support from Walking with the Wounded and outdoor counselling from the Venture Trust. We also continued funding for 11 other projects which had received multi-year funding awards previously through the fund. Support for small local projects includes funding for FirstLight trust to establish a new café hub for veterans and their families in Falkirk and funding for Network of Wellbeing to create a programme of away days for veterans in and around the Huntly area to help combat social isolation. I had the pleasure of visiting Networks of Wellbeing earlier this year and was very impressed with the facilities and support they offer to veterans in their area.
This year we have also published our refreshed Veterans Strategy Action Plan which reflects the important services and support that the Scottish Government and our partners are able to provide. Since the original plan was published in 2020, we used the opportunity to determine the extent to which our existing commitments remained
valid and where there were opportunities to add more detail to these commitments or add new ones. We identified seven important new commitments which will help us to expand our support to our veterans and their families. This includes over the coming months working with partners to ensure that the contributions of veterans are properly recognised and understood by wider society.
This year we marked a significant anniversary, that being the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands War, an event which touched many of us across Scotland and means so much to veterans and their families right across the country. The Scottish Government worked with Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland to fund the delivery of a national event to commemorate the anniversary in June 2022. We must never forget the debt of gratitude we all owe for the sacrifices these individuals made – not just those who lost their lives but also those whose lives were irrevocably changed by their experience.
As there was following that conflict and others before and since, there is still stigma associated with veterans mental health. To address this issue, since our last update to Parliament in 2021, the Scottish Government has published the Veteran Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan and an Implementation Board has been established to take the plan forward and provide real, tangible support for our veterans and their mental health. Linked to this of course is our commitment to continue to provide funding support to Combat Stress and Veterans First Point in 2022-23.
Veterans housing and homelessness continues to be a priority too. Earlier this year we published our Veterans Homelessness Prevention Pathway which aims to reduce the incidence of veterans without safe and suitable housing. What is more, we continue to provide funding through our affordable housing supply programme to deliver homes specifically for veterans where Local Authorities identify this as a strategic priority and maintain support to Housing Options Scotland to provide its Military Matters project.
This year we have welcomed a new Scottish Veterans Commissioner, Susie Hamilton. Susie is a veteran and has a wealth of experience in the veterans sector. I know that she will work tirelessly to support our veterans and their families right across Scotland.
Helping veterans into employment as they transition out of Service is an enduring key priority for us and I am delighted that the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership’s veterans skills and qualifications discovery tool went live in February this year. The Scottish Government is providing further funding this year to support the ongoing development of the tool.
This is just a small indication of all the of the work that has gone on. What follows in this report clearly shows that the appetite is as strong as ever to support our veterans with many organisations and individuals working to that end. As always, our work continues to improve, expand, and develop the provision for our veterans and their families. I am thankful for everyone who has contributed over the past year, and those who continue to contribute every day in support of our veterans community.
Keith Brown MSP Cabinet Secretary for Justice
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