Throughout March, my focus has been meeting with Scottish Government Ministers to discuss the progress made against recommendations set out by Eric Fraser (my predecessor) in his various reports.
Significant progress has been made against many of the recommendations, demonstrating the continued commitment of the Government to the veterans’ community. This is hugely encouraging and should be applauded. However, there are some areas where I would like to see further headway made. Assessing these recommendations has allowed me to focus in on areas where greater progress is required and remind those in the relevant policy areas of the need to address this. My meetings so far have been very positive and productive, with any concerns taken onboard. A full review of progress against all the recommendations will be published on this website in the next month or so.
I’ve also had sight of the first readout from the Scottish Government’s extensive consultation on the UK Veterans Strategy. Carried out by the Defence Policy Unit (DPU), the extensive process involved engaging with over 50 groups and organisations across Scotland. I have put forward my own views and look forward to seeing the outcomes from the UK-wide public consultation when published later this year.
Towards the end of the month, I was pleased to meet with General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff when he visited Scotland. We discussed the services and support for Scotland’s veterans and he agreed with me for the need for our society at large to demonstrate empathy rather than sympathy towards the veterans’ community.
I was also given the chance to hear international perspectives on veterans’ mental health issues when I attended the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London. Hosted by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), the conference brought together prominent academics, researchers and mental health practitioners from the UK, USA, Canada and Israel to share ideas, initiatives and best practice. A very interesting day providing some important insights into this important topic.
I continue to receive warm welcomes from a range of organisations and services looking to share their work with me. I recently enjoyed a visit to the Lothian Veterans Breakfast Club, where I chatted with members and saw firsthand the importance of such organisations in combatting social isolation and fostering a sense of community.
I was also invited by the Royal Navy to a reception and capability demonstration aboard HMS Defender in Glasgow, which I was delighted to attend. It was great to meet the crew and chat about their concerns about service life and the challenges they think they will face when they come to leave.
Heading into April, I will be finalizing my take on how the Government is progressing against our recommendations. Looking further ahead, I will also be inviting others to contribute to this blog to show the diversity of activities and ideas that are out there to help our veterans properly settle into our communities across Scotland.