Victims of Military Sexual Trauma

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st September 2022.

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Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government what support is being provided to assist those veterans, predominately women, who have been victims of military sexual trauma whilst on duty. (S6O-01354)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Although, as the member knows, responsibility for military conduct is a reserved issue, the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to improving access to support for all those who have experienced rape or sexual assault and funds a range of front-line specialist support services. For example, through our victim-centred approach fund, we will provide £48 million to 23 organisations across Scotland over the period from 2022 to 2025. That includes £18.5 million for specialist advocacy support for survivors of gender-based violence, underlining our absolute commitment to putting victims very firmly at the centre of the justice system.

Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, with more than 22 per cent of female veterans reporting incidences of sexual assault by their colleagues, the United Kingdom Government and Ministry of Defence should do more to stamp out that culture in the armed services and that the UK Government should recognise military sexual trauma in the same way that the US recognises it, which is as a criminal offence under federal law, meaning that trials are held in civilian courts?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I certainly agree that more should be done to stamp out that culture. That has been true for many decades. When I took up this ministerial position last year, one of my first engagements was to go to a new veterans centre in Fife, where a woman, who was one of the first Wrens to be stationed on a ship, recounted some of her horrendous experience from the 1980s onwards. Much more should be done and should have been done over many years.

Of course, I agree that the more serious cases should be dealt with in the civilian criminal courts. We continue to push the UK Government to commit to the future implementation of recommendation 1 of the Lyons review. In January, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence to ask how the UK Government will address that important issue and how our service personnel can be assured that they will not be affected by such awful behaviour during their service. Although those were very reasonable questions, I did not receive even the courtesy of a response from the secretary of state.