MoD should do more to help support Scotland's war veterans

WHAT image comes to mind when you hear the word "veteran"? A silver-haired old man in a blazer, with a chest full of medals? Well, you'd be wrong, but not alone.

It's a common misconception that all veterans fit this image. The reality is veterans come in all ages. Soldiers, sailors and airmen as young as 18 are fighting for their country and there is a steady flow of injured troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. For every soldier killed, four return home injured.

Their conditions can range from lost limbs and paralysis to post-traumatic stress disorder. Many require long-term care.

At last, the government in Westminster is beginning to meet the complex needs of the veteran community encompassing combat-stressed teenagers to frail Second World War veterans. They are doing this in co-operation with the charity sector - service and other general ones - working with the MoD to deliver support to veterans that need it.

A number of new projects and initiatives are being rolled out, but very few, if any, are in Scotland. Although commendable and effective, they have no reach north of the Border.

Today, in Poppyscotland's HQ in Edinburgh, representatives of Scotland's service charities are meeting for the Veterans Scotland (VS) AGM. VS is the umbrella organisation pulling together the main charities in the sector including Erskine and Combat Stress. Poppyscotland, which runs Scotland's Poppy Appeal, is one of the key funding charities, donating money to charities and individuals alike. The AGM is a time to take stock of the past year and look at the charitable initiatives that are going on across Scotland to help our war veterans. Key to this is the collaboration between the charities and this is flourishing.

Yet the MoD should do more to assist in Scotland. There are opportunities being missed. We believe Scotland and Scottish veterans are missing out.

Take the launch of the Victoria Cross Poppy this week at the National Poppy Collection in Ayrshire by recent VC winner, L-Cpl Johnson Beharry.

It was unveiled at a project called "Gardening Leave", a scheme designed to give those affected psychologically by war a chance to ease their trauma via horticultural therapy.

It has helped over 60 veterans of conflicts from the Second World War to Iraq and Afghanistan. Gardening Leave was recently refused funding by the MoD's Challenge Fund - funding specifically allocated to new and developing projects supporting veterans. The project survives as it is supported by charities, including Poppyscotland, that allow it to get on with its vital work.

These men and women deserve thanks and support. We look forward to the MoD being more involved in the support of veterans in Scotland.

• Jim Panton is the chief executive of Poppyscotland