Spotlighting the less heard voices of Scotland's veteran community
Since taking up the role as Commissioner, engagement has been at the core of my work. I have met with and listened carefully to the experiences of veterans and their families. I have tried to better understand how things feel for them and to consider their changing needs.
Just like wider society, our veterans reflect different genders, cultures, religions, backgrounds, sexual orientations and life experiences. That means that their needs, and the support and services that they and their families might call upon, will be individual to them and their circumstances.
My vision is for a Scotland where veterans and their family members feel understood and valued by society and empowered to reach their full potential. My first report, Anything But Uniform, sets out a series of recommendations to help achieve this, with a particular focus on members of our veteran community whose voices are less frequently heard.
While there has undoubtedly been progress in statutory provision for veterans, some parts of the community have not been so well supported. I have heard, for example, that some LGBT+ veterans and women veterans have had very negative experiences while serving. These experiences may have continued to affect them in their civilian lives and in their approach to accessing support when needed.
When listening to the experiences of family members, including spouses and children, I learned that they often felt excluded from the development of services and support. Similarly, bereaved family members have told me that they sometimes feel isolated and forgotten.
My report calls on the Scottish Government to consider a range of areas where improvements could be made, such as recognising the diversity of the veteran community in language, imagery, policy and practice; eliminating barriers to access; and tackling gaps in provision for the specific needs of under-represented groups.
I’ve also recommended that service providers consider the specific needs of women veterans to improve their understanding of this group, particularly in the areas of mental health and sexual trauma, to support them more effectively.
You can learn more about my findings and recommendations by reading my full report here – Community and Relationships: Anything But Uniform.
I am hugely grateful to everyone who has taken the time to engage with me as I have gone about my work. It is a privilege to hold this role, and I continue to be inspired by and appreciative of our veteran community and everyone who plays a part in it.
One thing that has been very clear throughout my engagement is the diverse range of skills, talents, needs, experiences and situations of those I have met. It has reminded me that all veterans are unique individuals: we may have worn a uniform, but we are anything but uniform.