Poppyscotland (Support for Veterans)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th May 2022.

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Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government when it last corresponded with Poppyscotland regarding support for veterans. (S6O-01059)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I last met Poppyscotland to discuss veterans issues on 29 September 2021. Since then, my officials have engaged with it regularly on a range of topics including the poppy appeal, the festival of remembrance, preparations for events to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war, promotion of the veterans question in the 2022 census and veterans’ employment and health.

The most recent engagement by Scottish Government officials came last month, when Poppyscotland was invited to comment on the current draft of our upcoming refresh of the veterans strategy action plan.

Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

On 20 April, in response to my question on veterans’ mental health and wellbeing, the minister stated that the United Kingdom Government should fund the commissioner in Scotland, based on comparison with the commissioner in Wales. However, Poppyscotland highlighted to me that the minister neglected to mention that the UK-funded Welsh commissioner is limited to commenting on areas that are reserved to the UK Government.

As the Scottish veterans commissioner was set up and is funded by the Scottish Government, and reports only to the Scottish ministers on devolved areas, why does the minister believe that the commissioner in Scotland should now be funded by the UK Government? Does he believe that the UK Government should be involved in the appointment to and operation of that role, if it is to fund it?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I do not agree with that. I simply drew to the member’s attention the fact that different rules are being applied by the UK Government in relation to Wales and Scotland.

The UK Government does not fund the commissioner in Scotland; we set up the post ourselves and pay for it through funds in Scotland, none of which is associated with any part of the Barnett formula.

This Government does a great deal of work on veterans and has done so for many years, and we have dragged the UK Government with us to do more. We think that the work that we do on veterans should be recognised in the funding formula.

I would have thought that the member would agree that we should have more funding for veterans in Scotland, and that the UK Government should stand behind that and help our veterans wherever it is possible to do so.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

In light of the successful Poppyscotland and Royal British Legion campaign to include a new question on service status in the census, will the cabinet secretary take this opportunity to highlight the importance of completing the census, so that we can better understand our veterans’ needs?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

It is good to have that supplementary question, which relates to the substantive question about Poppyscotland. As I said in our news release with Poppyscotland back in March, I strongly encourage all veterans in Scotland who have not already done so to take the opportunity to complete the census, including the question on previous service in the armed forces, before the extended deadline of the end of May. That will help us to develop a more complete picture than we have ever had of our veterans population. It will give us an insight into the ages and circumstances of veterans throughout Scotland that will be vital as we continue to improve the provision and targeting of support for armed services personnel and their families.