17 July 2019
The below strategic plan sets out my vision, mission and values, and offers an outline of the work I will be pursuing over the next two years. It aims to give you a sense of my priorities and approach to the work I will undertake to maintain focus on our veterans’ community.
As the second Scottish Veterans Commissioner I have a unique opportunity to build directly on the excellent work of the inaugural Commissioner, Eric Fraser CBE, and bring my own 35-year Army experience to bear. By design, the role is intended to: help maintain the focus and energy levels that will be required for sustained improvement if the Scottish Government is to deliver its commitments to our veterans’ community; ensure that the voice of the veteran is always heard; and that government maximises the skills, experiences and talent veterans and their families bring to Scotland.
There have been many changes both within the Armed Forces and for the veterans community since the Scottish Government created the office of Scottish Veterans Commissioner five years ago. However, one constant is the stated commitment by the Scottish Government to make Scotland “the destination of choice” for our Service leavers and their families.
That commitment was reinforced in its 2018 Programme for Government and we have seen ongoing progress, which I will continue to monitor closely. For me personally, a series of meetings with portfolio Ministers in the first half of 2019 and their willingness to open themselves to supportive challenge and public reporting on progress has served to underline their continuing commitment.
In my first year in the role, I have been struck by the extraordinary dedication and commitment by an array of remarkable individuals and organisations who work to support veterans and their families. This gives me great cause for optimism and I am determined to use this timely opportunity for change to drive further improvements and to get it right for our veterans every time.
This strategic plan sets out my vision, mission and values, and offers a broad outline of the work I will be pursuing over the next two years. It aims to give you a sense of my priorities and approach to the work I will undertake to ensure the Scottish Government and others remain appropriately focused on our veterans’ community.
Scottish Veterans Commissioner
My vision is of a Scotland where all veterans and their families are able to access timely, high quality support wherever and whenever it is needed; and to realise their full potential in civilian life in Scotland.
My role’s ‘USP’ is its independence from government, its statutory delivery partners and third sector organisations supporting veterans. It gives me ‘licence’ to:
• step beyond political and other constraints
• be more responsive and open to all new thinking
• offer a clear pathway to help us realise that vision and to dial up the appetite for doing so.
As well as setting a broad outline for my work, this strategic plan sets out my vision, and the approach my office will take in going about its work. This, and the “Principles of Public Life” will guide me in my work to secure the best possible outcomes for our veterans and their families; helping make Scotland the destination of choice for service leavers.
In preparing this strategy I have taken time to reflect and refresh how I might best add value and vitality in driving further improvement for our veterans.
Our current strategic planning has been informed by: the direction set in the joint ten year ‘Strategy for Our Veterans’ which aims by 2028 to see every Veteran feel even more valued, supported and empowered and never disadvantaged as a result of their service, from the early read out I have had from the consultation on delivery of the Strategy, and from my own assessment and Report on Progress against my predecessor’s recommendations.
This gives us an up-to-date position, a baseline from which to chart a course and direction for our future work. Inevitably this will evolve in light of developments and other contextual shifts. With that in mind I will continue to keep our strategy and my office’s internal action plans under review.
The office of Scottish Veterans Commissioner was created by the Scottish Government in 2014, with the overall strategic objective of improving outcomes for our Armed Forces veterans and their families. I cannot of course do this alone, so I see my mission as one of leadership, bringing partners together to create the right conditions to enable veterans and their families to flourish in civilian life.
I am mandated to do this by:
• engaging, listening, and acting on the experience of veterans, individually and collectively;
• acting as an ambassador for veterans as an independent and vocal advocate for policies and actions that will drive change; and
• providing scrutiny and supportive challenge to policy makers and those providing services to veterans and their families.
• Making sure veterans and their families’ needs are properly understood and supported, by aiding wider community/local engagement and understanding of their issues;
• Promoting the valuable contribution and benefits that veterans and their families can bring to Scotland;
• Ensuring that the expectations of veterans themselves are set at a realistic levels, that they know what to expect and understand their responsibilities as individuals;
• Encouraging Service Leavers to see Scotland as an inclusive place of opportunity for them and their families to settle.
My independence from government and charities, affords me the freedom and space to:
• form and offer an impartial view
• make authoritative recommendations for improvement
• bring supportive challenge to policy makers and decision takers.
A non-statutory office, my objectives are determined administratively by Scottish Ministers and reviewed on an annual basis. I am not an Ombudsman and do not have the power to investigate individual cases or complaints or to offer direct advice or support. My power lies in my experience, independence and the influence I can bring to bear.
Three long-term outcomes I wish to accomplish
During my tenure as Commissioner I want to achieve progress against three longer-term outcomes, each of which requires to be looked at from the perspective of: the individual veteran and their family, policy makers and service providers (both statutory and voluntary, nationally and locally) and the community, including employers and others with a role to play in helping a veteran transition and settle in a particular place.
• The individual veteran and their family
• Policy makers and service providers (both statutory and voluntary, nationally and locally)
• The community, including employers and others with a role to play in helping a veteran transition and settle in a particular place.
In doing so, my priorities will be to:
• aid, improve and build understanding of veterans, their needs and attributes and what they bring to our society;
• drive delivery and maintain improvement towards all SVC extant recommendations; and
• look again at each aspect of the transition journey from military service to civilian life and offer a clear pathway to help realise that vision.
I plan to achieve these outcomes by:
|Listening to and acting on the experiences of veterans (individually and collectively) with the aim of improving understanding of their changing needs and of all they bring to civilian life.
I will be an ambassador for veterans in Scotland, helping service providers focus on veterans’ experience of their service provision.
|In the next two years|
|1. Monitoring and reporting progress against all SVC recommendations accepted by the Scottish Government||2. Challenging progress -
the pace and sustainability of change and quality and availability of provision
|I will monitor progress and publish open, fact-based annual assessments as to how things are improving via the ‘Progress’ area of my website. I will next report in May/June 2020.|
This will not only tell us whether our actions are improving outcomes for our veterans but will also serve to shine a light on areas where they are falling short of what is needed and where corrective or alternative action should be considered.
| I will meet regularly with stakeholders and delivery partners to ensure there is forward movement and no regression across recommendations.
I will also aim to meet regularly with the Veterans’ Minister and at least annually with portfolio Ministers to discuss areas of particular challenge highlighted by my progress reporting and other developments.
|3. Looking at all aspects of transition from military to civilian life||4. Making further recommendations for outcomes focussed improvement|
|Over the next two years I will take an in-depth thematic look at the whole process of Transition from Military Service against the current background of social, economic and demographic change, as well as changes within the Armed Forces and veterans’ communities. Getting transition right is vital, which is why I will be concentrating on this as the key anchor to my work in this period.|| I will produce an Introductory Paper on Transition from Military Service in autumn 2019 , followed by a series of short papers looking at specific aspects of transition between now and end 2020.
I expect to publish my first paper, looking at Employment, Skills and Learning, in autumn/winter 2019.