Last year I met two students at Glasgow Caledonian University ( GCU) who had previously served in the Armed Forces. Both were inspiring characters but one, in particular, left a lasting impression as he described the challenges he faced during a short and troubled spell in the Army and a difficult transition into civilian life.
Derek - of whom you can read more about in case study 1 - subsequently received vital support from the statutory sector, charities and the academic community that helped him to secure accommodation, meaningful work and a place at college. For the past two years he has studied Building Surveying at GCU, and it came as no surprise to hear that he recently graduated with an Honours degree. This happened just five years after leaving the military with minimal academic or vocational qualifications.
What makes this achievement so impressive is the fact that due to alcohol-related offences, Derek had spent time in the Military Correction Centre before being discharged, and back in Glasgow he was homeless and badly struggling to cope with life 'beyond the wire'. His success in overcoming these many challenges is testament to his drive and commitment, and to the help provided by several organisations and individuals. It also highlights the potential that is sometimes hidden amongst those who have served in the Armed Forces and have so much to offer Scotland's communities and workplaces, if given the right support and opportunities to succeed.
It is experiences like Derek's that have motivated me to write this report, which is aimed at helping more members of the veterans community in Scotland to secure meaningful and sustained jobs. I believe they can truly benefit from a system where the last remaining disadvantages and barriers have been removed, and opportunities in employment, skills development and academia are maximised.
During the course of preparing this report, I have come to believe that we are on the path to achieving this in Scotland and, with the right leadership, attitudes and investment, we can do the very best by our veterans community. As its members come to be more fully recognised as valuable contributors to our society and economy, the benefits - for all of us - will be significant and worthwhile.
I am very grateful to the many individuals and organisations that so willingly contributed to the preparation of this report by providing information and advice that helped my understanding of complex and challenging issues. The ideas and encouragement offered were invaluable in shaping my views and in framing the conclusions and recommendations.
My sincere hope is that this report generates discussion and debate and, ultimately, provides direction for improving employment and learning opportunities for the veterans community in Scotland over the coming months and years. I look forward to playing my part in ensuring that ambition becomes a reality.
Eric Fraser CBE
Scottish Veterans Commissioner