Last Wednesday [5th September] Veterans Minister, Keith Brown unveiled the Scottish Government’s new commitments to working with partner organisations to develop the consistency in services available to support veterans of the armed service when they leave service.
As Veterans Minister, Keith Brown represents an initiative that Scotland has been the first UK country since devolution to make. Veterans issues are part of a ministerial brief.
Until the First Minister’s recent reshuffle, Mr Brown had been Minister for Transport, Housing and Veterans. In the more logical new arrangements in this area, he has passed Housing to Margaret Burgess who combines it in her ministerial portfolio along with welfare.
It would seem even better logic for responsibility for Veterans now to move with Housing to a shared set of responsibilities with welfare, as the two most substantial issues assuring the future of veterans.
The commitments paper, available here, says: ‘A veteran is a person who has served for at least one day in HM Armed Forces, whether as a Regular or as a Reservist.’
Scotland has around 400,000 veterans, from centenarians to 19 year olds, dispersed around the country.
This substantial number is down to the fact that Scotland contributes more personnel to the Armed Forces per head of population than any other part of the UK.
The commitments paper notes that housing legislation has been amended so that ex‑Service personnel can now seek social housing in an area where they previously served.
This has been an issue of contention since many service folk traditionally build relationships and families in the area where they are stationed – and then, because that is not their formal home, cannot apply for social housing in the area where their families have been living – often for very many years.
The paper trumpets the fact that the Scottish Government has given Veterans Scotland £50,000 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen – to be used to undertake a range of initiatives directed at veterans.
Set this beside the sun of £400,000 the First Minister spent on a vanity project hiring and transforming – ironically – the Army & Navy Club in London’s Pall Mall into Scotland House, for corporate entertainment during the Olympic Games.
He had been offered Dover House, the gorgeous Scottish Office which backs on to Horse Guards Parade, site of the big magnet of Beach Volleyball – but turned it down for the DIY job in the Army & Navy – which brought in not one single corporate investment in Scotland.
We support the initiative of having a Scottish presence in London during the Olympics, economic development is a devolved responsibility.
But it was childish to reject the UK government’s offer of the Scottish Office – and a folly that cost unnecessary money that would have done good in areas of immediate need – such as care of veterans.