KEITH BROWN MSP
MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND TRANSPORT, WITH PORTFOLIO RESPONSIBILITY FOR POLICY ON ARMED FORCES VETERANS
The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that no member of the Armed Forces, service family member or veteran in Scotland faces disadvantage when accessing services and support. Our record in Scotland is one to be proud of and complements the values set out in the Armed Forces Covenant, published by the UK Government in June 2011.
We all recognise the dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of our Armed Forces. Recent conflicts and the international fight against terrorism have demonstrated the magnitude of the debt of gratitude which we owe to our Armed Forces. The support shown by the public for Armed Forces Day is a wonderful example of that backing. So, too, has been the excellent demonstration of support for homecoming parades. The people of Scotland have also continued to show unstinting support for the annual Poppy Appeal. We recognise the sacrifice that has been made by so many in the defence of our freedoms and way of life. In turn we, as a society, must meet our obligations to serving personnel, their families, Reservists, veterans and the bereaved.
This document provides an illustration of how the Scottish Government is addressing the needs of the Armed Forces community, working closely with our strategic partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors and through the Firm Base in Scotland. It focuses on how, within the areas of devolved responsibility, we have been able to provide appropriate and leading edge public and support services in areas such as health, housing, education and justice.
But we are not complacent in our achievements and within this document we also set out an ambitious and far-reaching programme of specific initiatives that we want to explore for the future, working with our partners. Our plans are set against a background of a changing and, we expect, increased military footprint in Scotland, following recent UK Government decisions, alongside a difficult economic climate. This presents challenges and opportunities for new thinking and we will continue to engage with the Armed Forces community to ensure we are addressing their priorities.
As well as Serving personnel, we know there are around 400,000 veterans already in Scotland. In addition, approximately 2,000 personnel leave the Armed Forces each year and return or move to Scotland. The vast majority of veterans will have no difficulty in accessing and benefiting from the services that the rest of us take for granted. However, a small number will experience difficulties and require assistance that is tailored to their needs and expectations.
The work and activity faced by a range of organisations across Scotland which will emerge from this ambitious programme will prove a challenge but it is one we must rise to meet. It will require commitment. It will depend on collaboration between strategic partners. It will involve planning and development of services in a coherent and seamless way. But it will set standards we should all aim to achieve.