Improving support for veterans in Scotland

A new report about the experiences of people leaving the military and making the switch into civilian life in Scotland is published today.

Veterans Secretary Keith Brown has highlighted “the skills and strengths that veterans gain from their experiences in the armed forces makes them a real asset when returning to civilian life”.

Transition in Scotland is the first independent report by Scottish Veterans Commissioner Eric Fraser. It highlights the wide range of support already provided by devolved public services to veterans and makes suggestions where improvements can be made.

Speaking at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service College in Cambuslang, which employs several veterans in a range of fire-fighter ranks Mr Brown said:

“I very much welcome the constructive suggestions the report sets out. The Scottish Government will look to engage with our partners to identify the best way of taking these forward and is committed to adapting and improving our public services to meet these needs.

“I tasked Eric to consider the outcome of Lord Ashcroft’s Veteran’s Transitions Review when he was appointed as Scotland’s first Veterans Commissioner. This is the first role of this type created in the UK and sets a clear example of how important veterans are. We wanted an objective, transparent, thorough report, and that has been delivered.

“Eric’s independence allows him to hold us to account and identify in areas such as housing, employment and health where we can do more to help people leaving the military, and make Scotland an even more attractive location for those considering settling with their families in Scotland.

“Transition from the armed forces works well for many people and there are several excellent examples of where partnership working is delivering real benefits for veterans in Scotland. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Centre is an excellent model of an employer that is actively supportive of veterans, and it has been a real pleasure to meet so many of them today.”

“However, we also need to ensure early help is there for people that need additional support to make the change, and the Scottish Government takes very seriously its responsibilities in making sure that support is available and effective.”

Eric Fraser, Scottish Veterans Commissioner added:

“As I looked into the transition process in Scotland, I was impressed by the first-class support provided across all sectors but there are areas where improvements can be made. My recommendations focus on improving the provision of information and adapting public policy to reduce the risk of longer-term disadvantage to Service Leavers.

By shifting the emphasis to prevention, I am encouraging the Scottish Government and its partners to develop early interventions which can ease transition and prevent long-term problems. Some in the ex-Service community will always need specific support to allow them to adjust to civilian life and it is essential that they get the help they require.

But this must be balanced by promotion, to ensure that Service Leavers are seen as valued and valuable members of society, with an expectation that their outstanding skills and attributes can make a major contribution to Scotland’s economy and its communities.

I sense that Scotland is determined to welcome all those who have served – including their families – and look forward to seeing Scotland becoming a destination of choice for Service Leavers - a country that makes the most of their strengths, skills and attributes.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer Alasdair Hay said:

“Former members of the armed forces and those who continue to serve as reservists bring outstanding benefits to their employers.

“Whether it’s our frontline crews, personnel at Operations Control or our support staff, people across the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service face challenging roles requiring them to work under often difficult circumstances.

“It’s not just about physical fitness and courage, although these are areas where there is a clear correlation between the attributes required in operational firefighters and those who serve in the navy, the army, the Royal Air Force and the marines.

“Integrity, professionalism, leadership and the ability to stay calm under pressure are key qualities we need in our personnel and they are certainly found in armed forces veterans.”

One of the projects showcased in the report is Bellrock Close, a £6.7 million development new high quality accommodation for veterans in Glasgow, provided by the Scottish Veterans’ Housing Association and its supporting charity Scottish Veterans Residences. This is an innovative service providing transitional support focused on health and wellbeing, education, training and employability and future housing needs, to help younger Service Leavers adapt to successful and fulfilling civilian lives. The project was developed in partnership, with support from the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, the serving/veteran community and various military charities committed to improving the support provided to the ex-service community.