Veterans and Armed Forces Community

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 17th November 2020.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

I mark my appreciation of and offer my thanks to our veterans and armed forces community. It is a special community, which is a huge asset to Scotland and makes an enormous contribution to our country. I also commend the Scottish National Party Scottish Government and, in particular, the minister for their continuing, unwavering support for the community and their determination to put veterans on the map. This Government was the first in the life of our reconvened Scottish Parliament to have a veterans minister and the first across these isles to appoint an independent Scottish veterans commissioner. Another key structural innovation has been the establishment across local councils and NHS health boards of veterans champions, and I commend the significant contribution within Fife Council of its veterans champion Councillor Rod Cavanagh, who is a former marine.

In the short time available, I will focus on three specific issues. The first is the important issue of mental health, which members have mentioned. Not all veterans easily make the transition to civilian life, so we need to support them in that transition. I welcome the further funding, which was announced today, to

Veterans First Point Scotland, which plays a pivotal role in that regard. I am pleased to note that, as part of its regional network, its Fife base is Cardenden in my constituency.

The second issue is housing, which has also been mentioned. Although a lot of activity is going on, for which I commend the Scottish Government—including the on-going work to develop a veterans homelessness prevention pathway—more can still be done, particularly in relation to adaptations. In my experience, SSAFA provides invaluable support, but, even with its involvement, it can be difficult to get things moving in a timely manner, and I hope that the minister can use his good offices in that regard.

The third issue concerns employability and transferable skills and, again, I note the good work that is going on there. The minister referred to some of that in his opening statement, and I am particularly interested in the work of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership, which is working on the mapping of military qualifications that are recognised by employers in Scotland. Again, there is more to be done; I imagine that employers could do a lot more in that regard, and I urge them to step up to the plate.

I am proud of the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to our veterans and armed forces community. Sadly, that must be contrasted with the devastating news in today’s paper that yet another UK Government—this time of a Tory hue—has the Black Watch in its sights. For the sake of completeness, I ask who can forget the then Labour Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, who started the amalgamation process in 2004 and made the announcement on the very day that the Black Watch was returning from its second back-to-back tour of duty in Iraq. Another day, another Westminster betrayal.