It’s that time again when many of us take stock on the passing of another year and when we take the opportunity to consider the expectations and challenges for the next. Here’s a summary of some of my work from 2019 with a look ahead to what I hope to achieve in 2020.
In the first half of 2019, I launched my assessment of Scottish Government progress against the 63 recommendations from my predecessor’s four key reports. The progress made was encouraging, and demonstrates a commitment to our veterans population. However there is always room for improvement, and I’ll continue to monitor and report on progress in the coming year. I am determined to make sure the Scottish Government maintains an appropriate focus on delivering these recommendations.
My paper, Positive Futures… Getting Transition Right in Scotland, was published last month and is an introduction to a series of papers where I will re-examine the experience of transition in Scotland and identify areas for improvement. We currently recognise a successful transition as having the fundamentals of life in place – a job and somewhere to live – on leaving the Services. The UK Veterans Strategy, developed and endorsed by the four Governments across the UK, talks to this challenge of a successful transition. If you have not read it, you can find it here. In our case in Scotland, we have to ensure that both the UK and the Scottish Governments are working in harmony to successfully deliver its vision across its six key themes.
With that in mind, I will be examining in detail the various elements of transition starting with employability, skills and learning, with a view to publishing a paper on this subject in the first part of 2020. I will then move on to focus on housing, and making a home in civilian society. Here I am keen to explore novel and innovative solutions as to how local communities can embrace Service leavers and how Local Authorities, with support from the Scottish Government, can share best practice on housing for our Service leavers.
The Veterans Minister, Graeme Dey, led the debate in Parliament on Veterans at the beginning of this month. Whilst it was good to see this engagement by Parliament and the Government, it was disappointing that only 19 MSPs of the 129 attended the debate. This highlights the challenge the veterans community has in ensuring that its talent is recognised as being of benefit to Scotland. I urge our veterans community to keep engaging with Scottish Parliamentarians to highlight the positive contribution that they make.
Early in the New Year, I will be chairing the Scottish Veterans Fund decision panel where the Scottish Government, in conjunction with Standard Life Aberdeen will be awarding grants to those organisations who make a positive difference to our veterans.
Finally, my team and I extend a massive thank you to all those who have shared their time and experiences with me in the past year, and most importantly, to all veterans and serving personnel for their Service. We wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.