The Armed Forces are at the forefront of our land, sea and air defences and an integral part of our Defence capability. Their presence and traditions are inextricably linked to the history of Scotland and have helped shape the country we live in today. Their selfless dedication to duty and readiness to defend our freedoms is world renowned and entirely in keeping with the finest traditions of our Armed Forces. The people of Scotland are rightly proud of these Servicemen and Servicewomen, who are stationed in many parts of the country.
In addition to being our front line of Defence, Armed Forces personnel are at the centre of our communities. Soldiers, sailors and airmen and women are our neighbours and friends. They bring business to local communities, they make use of local, public facilities and play a full role in civic society. They and their families also live and work in our communities and children of Service personnel attend local schools. The Armed Forces therefore make a considerable contribution to Scottish life and to our economy at both a national and local level.
Scotland also has a significant veterans' community, estimated at around 400,000. Many were born in Scotland and after military Service have returned to their homes and families. Some are from elsewhere but have chosen to live, work and perhaps retire in Scotland. They, too, are a vital part of our communities and enrich Scotland's diverse population in many different ways.
In May 2011 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) published the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant followed a number of earlier publications, including the 2008 Service Personnel Command Paper, which set out a series of promises and undertakings that would be delivered by UK Government (including devolved administrations - our contribution to that work is captured within this paper) on behalf of the Armed Forces community. The Covenant sets out the relationships between UK Government and the Armed Forces, the Armed Forces and the nation. It aims to be an endorsement of the values which generate fighting power, build morale, support Service families and sustain those who have been through the hardships of operational Service. It sets out general principles of support to be provided by bodies in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The Covenant is accompanied by a document entitled Today & Tomorrow which sets out a specific programme of future actions to be taken in support of the Armed Forces community. Many of the future actions are for the MoD and the Armed Forces to arrange and deliver, either in respect of the Armed Forces, wherever they are based within the UK, or for parts of the UK other than Scotland. Other actions require to be addressed on a collaborative basis between the MoD, the Armed Forces, the Scottish Government and other UK Departments. Further actions have to be developed and delivered in a way that suits the legislative and administrative landscape in Scotland and in response to Ministerial objectives and priorities here.
Scottish Government Ministers have made clear that they welcome the Covenant and will work with the MoD to ensure its implementation. They have also indicated that a range of independent measures, unique to Scotland, will be delivered and implemented, ensuring that the needs and aspirations of the Armed Forces community in Scotland remain at the centre of policy development, planning and delivery in the Scottish Government and in the wider public sector.