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02/06/13 10:49

More support needed for Scottish soldiers

Veterans Minister demands action in light of on-going uncertainty for troops and families.

The UK Government must do more to offer support and reassurance to Scottish soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Veterans Minister Keith Brown said today.

In a letter to the Minister of State for Defence Personnel and Welfare, Mr Brown expressed his concern that not enough action was being taken to reassure Scots soldiers about their future job security or to illustrate what support would be in place for them after leaving the forces.

He also outlined that no Scottish Government minister had been given the opportunity to visit troops in Afghanistan despite numerous requests to offer support and reassurance and to gain a better understanding of the needs of returning personnel.

Mr Brown said:

“Our brave servicemen and women are courageously serving their country out in Afghanistan.

“The very least they can expect in return is reassurance from the government that their jobs are secure and that their work and input is valued. Instead, however, all they have been subject to is on-going uncertainty on job security and their prospects when leaving service.

“On top of that, the MOD’s recently announced, and long overdue, basing review will have significant detrimental consequences for our military communities here in Scotland, in particular bringing further uncertainty for service families.

“On a number of occasions I have made requests to the UK Government that a Scottish Minister is sent to Afghanistan to offer encouragement and support to the brave troops that are based there. This would be an ideal opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the needs of our service personnel so that we can provide maximum support to them on leaving the service. Again and again this request has been denied.

“The MoD have declined on the basis of lack of capacity to send ‘VIPs’ to Afghanistan. We do not require special treatment, Members of Parliament with responsibilities for serving personnel have been able to show their support in Afghanistan, as have members of Westminster opposition parties with no direct responsibility, I firmly believe however, that a Scottish Minister should be sent in order to better ensure the seamless transition from being a member of the Armed Forces to being a veteran looking to access Scottish Government delivered services.

“If Scotland were to get the full powers of independence, it would be a top priority for this government to ensure that the needs of our armed forces communities are met.

“Already, Scotland has so much to offer service personnel and their families, as demonstrated in the publication of “Our Commitments: Scottish Government support for the Armed Forces community in Scotland."