North East MSP Mike Rumbles has called on the Scottish Government to review the closure of essential Veterans First Point services in Grampian and the Highlands.
During a debate in the Scottish Parliament today, the Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson for veterans highlighted that ex-service personnel have an increased likelihood of developing long-term mental health issues due to issues such as limited family and social networks, higher than average debt, increased levels of isolation and a higher than average chance of being homeless.
Mr Rumbles said:
“Scottish ministers have been very short-sighted in their refusal to fully fund the Veterans First Point centres in the North East and Highlands.
“Why should the North East and the Highlands not have the first point service while the Scottish Government funds this for other health boards. The Scottish government should do its duty to all our veterans regardless of where they live.
“Much like its programme for mental health services and its long-awaited suicide prevention strategy, the Scottish Government’s action and delivery of services to help veterans has been sorely lacking.
“It is not uncommon for some service personnel to have left the armed forces many years ago and still be struggling to adjust to civilian life. I am thankful for the many great organisations, such as Age Scotland, Poppy Scotland and Help for Heroes that have stepped into the breach and are doing work that the Scottish Government has a duty to carry out.”
Notes for editors:
- At the end of 2017, the UK-wide charity Combat Stress, working with veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health conditions, reported a 143% rise in referrals over the past ten years. In Scotland, figures from January show the charity had 365 registered ex-service personnel, with a staggering 253 of those referred to its services for the first time in 2016.
- Veterans, especially those who served in the armed forces for only a short period of time, are at a significantly increased risk of self-harm, according to researchers at the University of Glasgow. For example, the risk of self-harm to veterans with brief service currently averages 30% above the norm.
- Veterans are also more prone to homelessness than non-veterans and are 10% more likely to become homeless in Scotland than in England.
- Both the Scottish and UK Governments have either failed to log or refused to provide figures for the number of veterans who have committed or attempted to commit suicide in Scotland.