Scotland politics

Scotland to have UK's first Veterans Commissioner

The interests of ex-service men and women in Scotland are to be championed by a Veterans Commissioner.

The new post, the first in the UK, was confirmed by Scottish Veterans Minister Keith Brown.

He said the commissioner would work with charities, local authorities and health boards to identify any areas in public services that might provide greater support to veterans.

They would also help to shape future policy development.

Mr Brown, a former Royal Marine, said: "I am delighted to announce the creation of the Scottish Veterans Commissioner. This new commissioner will be a radical innovation, acting as an ambassador for veterans and helping to remove the barriers that prevent ex-servicemen and women from realising their full potential.

"As well as addressing the needs of veterans who are particularly disadvantaged, the commissioner will develop a wider focus on unlocking the potential of veterans, so that their unparalleled skills and experience can benefit Scotland."

The commissioner will have responsibility for helping those who have left the armed forces adjust to civilian life and access the assistance they need with health, housing and employment.

Mr Brown said the commissioner would "examine the public service landscape at a strategic level, to see what works, what needs to change and to develop new opportunities".

Speaking at a defence debate at Holyrood, the minister said the Scottish government had made significant developments to support veterans.

In recent years, the Scottish government has committed to improving the help veterans receive from devolved public services such as the NHS.

Those with service-related conditions are entitled to priority treatment, with those who have lost limbs promised access to state-of-the-art prosthetics.

'Strong commitment'

Mr Brown said: "Across the breadth of our responsibilities, our record demonstrates that we are committed to delivering better outcomes for veterans, but we cannot rest on our laurels. More can, and will be done, in the future.

"Our courageous members ex-service personnel deserve our support and assistance in return for their selfless service in defence of our freedoms."

Colonel Martin Gibson, chairman of Veterans Scotland which represents 57 charities and organisations that support veterans of all ages, said: "This strong commitment by the Scottish government will allow the commissioner to further harmonise the services and support right across the public sector available to veterans throughout Scotland."

The Scottish government has earmarked £250,000 a year to employ and support the commissioner who will take up the post in the autumn.

There are an estimated 400,000 former army, navy and air force personnel in Scotland.

The full veterans debate can be watched live or on demand at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

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