Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Affairs Foreword
This is the sixth annual update to Parliament on support for veterans and the 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 within the last 12 months. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, I have seen real progress this year in a wide range of areas of support provided to veterans, veterans and their families. Challenges clearly remain and I am aware that Covid is still very present in our lives, however, we continue to see a return to a level of normality that we have not seen since the start of the pandemic.
On a personal level, I have made numerous visits to charities and veterans organizations and met some of our key partners in person over the past year, which used to be so routine but which now signals real progress and a welcome return for all of us. I was privileged to be able to attend a special memorial event with the McCrae Battalion Trust at Contalmaison cairn in northern France to honor those who fell during the Battle of the Somme. We must remember the past, but also remember to support the current members of our veteran community. I am proud of the collaborative work we are doing in Scotland on this.
It is this gathering 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, providing £250,000 to support its work to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of older veterans in Scotland.
We have also been able to increase the Scottish Veterans Fund prize pool to £500,000 a year to provide greater support to veterans and their families. This year, we particularly prioritized projects offering support for early departures and projects encouraging collaborative work in the veteran community.
A total of 14 new projects have received funding from a range of organisations, including Walking with the Wounded employment support and Venture Trust outdoor advice. We also continued to fund 11 other projects that had previously received multi-year grants through the fund. Support for small local projects includes funding from FirstLight Trust to establish a new coffee center for veterans and their families in Falkirk and funding from Network of Wellbeing to create a days away program for veterans in and around the Huntly region in order to 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 provide to veterans in their area.
This year we also published our updated Strategic Action Plan for Veterans which reflects the important services and support the Scottish Government and our partners are able to provide. Since the release of the original plan in 2020, we have taken the opportunity to assess the extent to which our existing commitments remain
valid and where there were opportunities to add more detail to these commitments or to add new ones. We have identified seven important new commitments that will help us increase our support for our veterans and their families. This includes over the next few months working with partners to ensure veterans’ contributions are properly recognized and understood by society at large.
This year we marked an important anniversary, namely the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War, an event that touched many of us across Scotland and means so much to veterans and their families across the country. The Scottish Government has worked with Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland to fund the organization 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 made by these people – not just those who lost their lives. but also those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by their experience.
As there has been the aftermath of this conflict and others before and since, there is still stigma associated with the mental health of veterans. To address this, since our last update to Parliament in 2021, the Scottish Government has released the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan and an Implementation Council has been set up to take this forward the plan and provide real and tangible support for our veterans and their mental health. Of course, our commitment to continue providing financial support to Combat Stress and Veterans First Point in 2022-23 is tied to this.
Veterans housing and homelessness also continue to be a priority. Earlier this year, we released our Veterans Homelessness Prevention Journey which aims to reduce the number of veterans without safe and adequate housing. Additionally, we continue to provide funding through our Affordable Housing Delivery Program to provide housing specifically for veterans where local authorities identify this as a strategic priority and maintain their support for Housing Options Scotland to provide its Military Matters project.
This year we welcomed a new Scottish Veterans Commissioner, Susie Hamilton. Susie is a veteran and has extensive experience in the veterans sector. I know she will work tirelessly to support our veterans and their families across Scotland.
Helping veterans find employment as they transition out of service is a key enduring priority for us and I am delighted that Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership’s Veteran Skills and Qualifications Discovery Tool has been put in place. online in February this year. The Scottish Government is providing additional funding this year to support the continued development of the tool.
This is just a small indication of all the work that has been done. What follows in this report clearly shows that the appetite is stronger than ever to support our veterans with many organizations and individuals working towards this end. As always, our work continues to improve, expand and develop provisions for our veterans and their families. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed over the past year and to those who continue to contribute every day to support our veteran community.
Keith Brown MSP Cabinet Secretary for Justice