Chapter 6 Conclusions
This report covers significant ground - subject matter that proved to be far more complex and wide ranging than I envisaged when I set out to produce it - but it has been a fascinating and thought-provoking journey.
I set out to answer two questions. The first was whether everything possible was being done to support and deliver meaningful and sustained employment for the veterans community. The second was whether the veterans community was being given every opportunity to maximise its contribution to Scotland's workplaces, economy and society. On both counts I have concluded that the answer is largely encouraging but there is no room for complacency and I am convinced that more can and needs to be done. By no stretch of the imagination does the system need overhauled.
As I have written and spoken about on many occasions previously, I consider Scotland to have a good support structure for those in the veterans community who need assistance, based on extensive and good quality public services and an effective charitable sector. This report draws on many of the good examples I have seen across the fields of employability, learning and skills. My hope is that the recommendations will help see the good practice become more widespread.
The employment prospects for the next generation of veterans should be greatly enhanced. The overall skills and educational attainment of Service personnel will improve over the coming years with increasing numbers of well- educated and highly-skilled individuals joining the Armed Forces. I have concluded that across Scotland we need to ensure that the most is made of the skills and experience of these talented people when they leave the military. It will be to the benefit of not only those individuals and their families but also to Scotland's economy and communities.
I am also convinced that work is still required to help shift the attitudes towards, and perceptions of, veterans amongst some employers, the media and members of the public, so that they are seen predominantly as net contributors and assets to Scotland, rather than as a drain on public resources. Much progress has been made on this over the past few years but more can and should be done. The Scottish Government, politicians at all levels (from the First Minister down), leaders in the veterans charitable sector, the media, business leaders, employers and the veterans community itself all have a part to play in projecting a positive and constructive image of veterans.
Finally, Scotland suffers from some significant and well documented skills gaps in certain sectors and from demographic challenges, especially in rural and remote areas. The veterans community is ideally suited to provide part of the solution to both of these issues. Strategic leadership and oversight from the Scottish Government will be required to ensure that long-term approaches are taken and that the veterans community is best utilised to fill some of the skills gaps and reverse the population flight in areas of the country. This report highlights a number of practical examples and offers a series of recommendations for actions that will, I believe, help fulfil these strategic ambitions.
I have deliberately set a series of challenging recommendations for the Scottish Government and others but sincerely believe that a concerted and ambitious approach to this agenda can reap significant rewards for the ex- Service community and Scotland alike. I am optimistic about the future prospects for veterans and look forward to continuing to play my part in making the changes set out in this report a reality.