SVC 2023 Highlights
2023 has been a hugely busy year and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to speak with so many individuals and organisations across Scotland. I’ve shared some of my highlights from the past year below.
Engaging with the veteran community
From Veterans Breakfast Clubs to Local Authority Covenant Groups , from Fiji Day celebrations to employee veterans networks, from charities supporting veterans to Military Wives Choirs, I’ve met with a wide range of organisations over the past 12 months. These meetings have truly reinforced the diversity, talent and resilience of our veteran community, and I’d like to thank every single person who has taken the time to share their insights and experiences with me.
Working with my UK counterparts
Having regular meetings with Northern Ireland Veterans Commissioner Danny Kinahan, Welsh Veterans Commissioner James Phillips, and David Richmond, Independent Veterans Advisor to the UK Government, has been an important element of my work. It enables us to share best practice and combine insights to help improve outcomes for veterans across the UK.
The success of veterans in business and the enormous contribution to society made by Serving, Reserve and ex-Service people has been recognised and celebrated this year at a number of events that I had the good fortune to attend. I met some remarkable individuals throughout the year who have achieved considerable success in their second careers, exemplifying the grit, perseverance and resilience that Service life teaches.
Pride in Veterans Standard
At the beginning of the year the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s Office joined Fighting with Pride’s Pride in Veterans Standard as a sign of our commitment to the LGBT+ military community. We pledge to ensure that the needs and experiences of this community are reflected in our work, and that the voices of LGBT+ veterans and serving personnel and their families are heard.
10 years of Military Matters
Housing Option’s Scotland’s Military Matters service provides life-changing support and I was delighted to attend a reception marking 10 years of the service. It was a great opportunity to meet some of the veterans whose families had faced homelessness before seeking help.
Military Skills Discovery Tool launch
The beginning of March saw a real milestone with the launch of the SCQF Partnership Military Skills Discovery Tool. This work relates to a 2018 SVC recommendation and signifies significant progress in helping veterans and Service Leavers translate and articulate their Service skills to civilian employers.
Forces Children Scotland
As part of my work to explore the advantages and challenges felt by the wider veteran community, I’ve enjoyed several meetings with children and young people from Forces Children Scotland. I’ve been hugely impressed with the cheerful resolve and maturity of these young people, and their willingness to share their own experiences so that they can help improve the lives of Forces and veteran children in the future.
Veterans in more rural areas
One of my priorities is to explore the impact of rurality on veterans and their families when accessing suitable support. I’ve travelled to areas including Inverness, Moray and Orkney, where I’ve been warmly welcomed by local groups who have shared some of the specific challenges they face as a result of living in more remote areas. I heard about really effective initiatives from public and third sector services and also where there could be improvement. I was struck by the exemplary dedication of veterans in more rural communities in giving support and strength to each other.
GP Armed Forces and Veterans Recognition Scheme
The launch of the General Practice Armed Forces and Veterans Recognition Scheme across Scotland in November marked another milestone moment. Aligned with SVC recommendations, the national roll out of the scheme is a hugely welcome move towards ensuring veterans can access appropriate health and wellbeing services in a timely manner.
As Christmas approaches and we head towards the end of the year, the veteran community has come together to share in services across the country. It was a delight to attend an international service at the Robin Chapel in Edinburgh, and an honour to read at the Combat Stress and Tri-Service Benevolent Funds carol services in recent weeks.
I wish to thank everyone who has supported the veteran community in Scotland this year, and wish you a healthy, happy and peaceful Christmas.