Highlights from my first year as Commissioner

When considering how to celebrate my first anniversary as Scottish Veterans Commissioner, I thought about sharing some highlights from my time in post so far. However, looking back on my first year, it’s almost impossible to choose. I’ve been warmly welcomed by veterans and organisations across Scotland, as well as meeting with colleagues in London and across the water to Northern Ireland. It’s been an honour to attend so many events and engage with so many inspiring individuals.

Seeing the difference that support organisations make to the lives of veterans and their families and witnessing the impact of peer-to-peer support and collaborative working between charities has been an instructive experience. However, engaging so extensively with Scotland’s veterans community has also highlighted gaps and deficiencies in support which must be addressed.

Over the course of the past year, in line with my commitment to building the voice of lived experience into all of my work, I’ve been hearing from many members of diverse groups of veterans. I’ve gained some immensely valuable insight into the unique challenges they face, their experiences of accessing support, and where they would like to see change. Rather than setting myself the impossible task of selecting some overall highlights, I’ve decided to select highlights relating to some of these groups:

The publication of the LGBT+ Veterans Independent Review

Hearing directly from LGBT+ veterans who served while the Armed Forces homosexuality ban was still in place has been an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience. The publication of Lord Etherton’s report was a hugely important milestone and I welcomed the apology given by the Prime Minister. While there has been significant progress in this area, many challenges still remain and I am hopeful that the response to the Report will be a further step towards addressing these. I remain committed to hearing the experiences and needs of Scotland’s LGBT+ veteran community, and my office holds Fighting With Pride’s Pride in Veterans Standard as a sign of our dedication to supporting its members.

Scottish Veterans Commissioner Susie Hamilton at an event to launch the Pride in Veterans Standard

Meeting with Women Veterans

Over the last few months I have met over 50 women veterans, in person and online and listened to their experiences, concerns and aspirations. It has reinforced the positive impact that women have in our Armed Forces and veterans communities. I have learned more about the need of women veterans and how they can feel invisible at times, as well as the pride that they have in their military careers. It has also been such a joy to meet with members of Military Wives Choirs over the past year, which are open to all women from the Forces community – be that serving personnel, veterans or spouses. Not only is it hugely enjoyable to hear these women perform, it’s uplifting to see the bonds they have forged through shared experiences and a love of singing.

Women Veterans at Edinburgh Armed Forces Day

Hearing from the veterans community’s young people

The experiences and needs of children of Service personnel can often be overlooked, yet transition can be just as difficult a time for them as for their Serving parent. Not only do they face a multitude of changes all at once, they may feel they have no control over what is happening to them. Many may feel a loss of identity as they try to adapt to life in the civilian world. Despite these difficulties, the group of young people who I spoke with were very open about their experiences and articulated their feelings very clearly. I was hugely impressed by their maturity and willingness to speak, which I hope will make a significant contribution to improving experiences for forces children in Scotland.

Scottish Veterans Commissioner Susie Hamilton meets with young people from veteran and forces families

I am hugely thankful to all of these groups, and the many other organisations and individuals who have given me their time and helped make my first year both enjoyable and fruitful. I am also proud to be part of such a vibrant, skilled, welcoming and supportive community, and am more determined than ever to ensure that its members get the support, opportunities, and wider recognition that they deserve.

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There's still time to share your views. If you're a member of the #veterans community living in Scotland, I want to know whether or not you feel valued by society. 📊 Please spare a minute to take part in my poll - it's only one question. 🔗 Visit the homepage of my website using the link in my bio to take part. #VeteransVoice
5 hours ago
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@forceschildrenscotland has launched an influencing strategy and manifesto which sets out its plans to drive forward meaningful change and by helping to ensure that the voices of children and young people from Forces families are heard. This important work is hugely welcome Read more about the strategy and manifesto here ➡️ forceschildrenscotland.org.uk/news/influencing-strategy-and-manifesto-available-now/
1 day ago
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Great to visit @lothiansvets yesterday and hear about their work. I enjoyed listening to veterans and their partners, as well as meeting the dedicated staff and volunteers. Huge thanks to everyone I met. #VeteransSupport #VeteransVoice #VeteransCommunity
1 week ago
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It's my vision that all members of Scotland's #veterans community - including spouses, partners, children of veterans, and the bereaved - feel valued by society. 📊 If you’re part of this community, please spare a minute to take part in my poll at scottishveteranscommissioner.org (🔗 Link in bio) #VeteranSupport #VeteransVoice #ValueVeterans
1 week ago