Written evidence from the Scottish Government |
Thank you for your letter of 7 February to Bruce
Crawford seeking a Scottish Government view on the provisions
in the Armed Forces Bill relating to the Armed Forces Covenant
Report currently under consideration by the Select Committee you
chair. I am responding since I have the Ministerial lead in Scotland
on veterans and many of the public services on which the Report
and the forthcoming Covenant impact.
As you may be aware, the Scottish Government has
contributed significantly to the production of the Armed Forces
Covenant Report. I met with Professor Strachan last year and impressed
upon him the need to recognise the Scottish legislative and structural
landscape that will often require a different approach to the
planning and delivery of new and developing initiatives for the
Armed Forces community here. I believe this has been reflected
in the Covenant Report. Moreover, in ongoing dialogue with their
Ministry of Defence counterparts, Scottish Government officials
have made clear that implementation of the Report recommendations
and the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant will require
close collaborative working on the best way forward.
The six key areas and their accompanying recommendations
in the Report are welcome. In my view they correctly focus on
developing a strategy for the provision of services appropriate
to the Armed Forces community and in a way that suit local circumstances.
I also welcome the identification of those strategic bodies and
organisations that could make use of the Armed Forces Covenant.
However, many recommendations require ongoing and careful consideration
to establish a timeline for their introduction and how they might
be arranged and funded.
The housing elements of the Report fall primarily
to the Ministry of Defence since they are concerned with Service
accommodation. However, I have already made representations to
UK Ministers expressing disappointment over the decision not to
extend coverage of the Armed Forces Home Ownership pilot into
Scotland given that many Service personnel in Scotland face the
same type of affordability problems as those faced by Service
personnel in England.
Healthcare in Scotland is planned and delivered in
a way that suits local circumstances and the structure of Health
Boards here. The Report acknowledges this different approach and
provides sufficient scope for the Covenant to be implemented in
Scotland in a way that reflects the needs and aspirations of the
Armed Forces community. Indeed, the Scottish Government has already
moved forward on a number of fronts that improve healthcare provision
that are consistent with the aim of the Report.
I also endorse the general direction of the education
related recommendations of the Report. While these are designed
to improve opportunities for Service personnel I can confirm that
the Scottish Government is already developing new initiatives
and exploring ways in which to improve the educational experience
of Service children based in Scotland. Nevertheless, we are prepared
to work with the Ministry of defence and other UK Departments
on any specific initiative.
Finally, the Select Committee will wish to note that
the Scottish Government fully supports the view expressed in the
Report that veterans should be offered an ID card. We have already
explored whether a card could be introduced in Scotland but established
that this would only be possible with the full cooperation of
the UK Government. Were a decision take on a UK wide basis to
proceed with this recommendation, the Scottish government would
be delighted to assist with the successful implementation of an
In conclusion, the Armed Forces Covenant Report provides
an excellent platform for joint working on the development and
implementation of initiatives and services specifically designed
for the Armed Forces community. There is a need to tailor these
in a way that fits with the Scottish legislative landscape and
matches and compliments existing initiatives. Significant progress
has already been made but much more needs to be done, as identified
by the Report. However, I believe the Report is a very good tool
to help direct and deliver the Armed Forces Covenant in a fair
and transparent way.
Alex Neil MSP
Minister for Housing and Communities
10 February 2011