Responsibility for liaison on Armed Forces matters on behalf of the Scottish Government rests with Mr Bruce Crawford MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy.
To ensure a co-ordinated and strategic approach to the planning and delivery of public services and support of the Armed Forces community, a Scottish Government Minister has been given portfolio responsibility for ensuring their support and welfare needs are reflected in policy planning and delivery. The Minister currently charged with this responsibility is Mr Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Housing and Transport.
At official level, Ms Leslie Evans, DG Learning & Justice has the strategic lead on the devolved impacts of all Defence matters across the Scottish Government. This role is supported by Mr Kenneth Hogg, Director of Safer Communities with responsibility for ensuring that policy development and implementation across the Scottish Government which impacts on the Armed Forces and veterans' community is both coherent and co‑ordinated. The Scottish Government is also represented on the UK Covenant Reference Group.
The Scottish Government has appointed an Armed Forces and Veterans Advocate with responsibility for ensuring that policy development and implementation across the Scottish Government that impacts on the Armed Forces and the veterans' community is both coherent and co‑ordinated. The Advocate, a senior civil servant with the rank of Director General, represents the Scottish Government on the Covenant Reference Group overseeing the delivery of the Covenant on a UK-wide basis. This responsibility is currently vested in the Director General Health & Social Care. On a day-to-day basis, overall responsibility for Defence matters within the Scottish Government rests with the Director General Learning and Justice.
The Armed Forces Act 2011 requires the MoD to produce an annual report on progress made in delivering the Armed Forces Covenant. The First Minister of Scotland has made it clear that we will contribute to that annual report, ensuring that the Scottish Government position in respect of devolved issues around health, education, housing, transport and justice is properly reflected, reported and open to scrutiny.
We have worked together with the Armed Forces in Scotland, representatives from the veterans community, Reservists and Cadet communities to develop the Firm Base Forum. This aims to provide a secure environment, at home and overseas, that sustains the Armed Forces, enables training for and deployment on operations and ensures the consent and support of the public.
It contains three key principles:
- Support the Serviceman and Service woman: Operational, Administrative, Logistics and Equipment, Individual Training, Barrack Infrastructure and Facilities Management;
- Engage the community: Civil Contingency, Recruiting, Cadets and Youth, Veterans, Employer Support, Reputations and Awareness and Ceremonial; and
- Personal Services and Community Support: Social Welfare, Health, Housing, Education and Training, Employment, Force Protection/Public Safety, Sport & Recreation and Spiritual.
In providing support to Firm Base delivery, the Scottish Government interacts with the heads of the three Services in Scotland and other key stakeholders. The Firm Base Forum is designed to discuss matters of policy and strategy relating to the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant in Scotland and provides direction and guidance to those involved in the delivery of services. There are a series of other functional groups for health, education and veterans where the Scottish Government and the military leadership discuss in greater detail how the Covenant is delivered in Scotland. These forums are at the top of a governance framework that reaches through Local Authorities, Health Boards and Firm Base Community Task Forces to local communities and individual military units.
The military have provided the Scottish Government with Military Liaison Officers from the Armed Forces in Scotland (to cover each of the Services) and a Military Medical Liaison Officer. These secondees bring a significant body of expertise and experience of military knowledge that will help inform policy development and implementation across policy areas and an understanding of the issues affecting Service personnel and their families living and working in Scotland. The Scottish Government will continue to draw on this knowledge base and, in turn, use the Military Liaison Officers as a means of improving dialogue with the Armed Forces community across Scotland.
We recognise that Reservists learn very useful leadership, management and other skills from their military training which are of real benefit to their employing organisation. To support staff who are reservists we have in place Human Resources policies and guidance that reflect the Support for Britain's Reservists and Employers (SaBRE) principles which support those staff who are required to attend military training or who have been mobilised. We have also endorsed SaBRE's statement of support to the Reserve Forces and received a certificate of support in national recognition of our commitment to be a supportive employer of the Armed Forces Reserves.
Senior officials from the Scottish Government will continue to play a full role in developing the activities of the Firm Base in Scotland to ensure that the specific and unique demands and expectations of the Armed Forces community are reflected in policy development and delivery.
Working within the Firm Base, we will also continue to encourage the development and introduction of local, Community Covenants. These are designed to bring together local civilian communities with the Armed Forces community in an area, to nurture mutual understanding and support. Some 20 of the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland have already entered into Community Covenants. It is anticipated that the remainder will be completed by autumn 2012. Partnership agreements that underpin these Community Covenants are also being developed.
The Scottish Government will continue to promote and make use of SaBRE best practice and guidance in developing the careers of Reservists in its employ.