Scottish election 2021: Douglas Ross aims to woo Army personnel with new pledges

Legislation to give serving and former military personnel and their families guaranteed rights to key services, including housing, would resolve “confusion” around the Armed Forces Covenant, according to Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

Unveiling a series of manifesto pledges to support Scotland's military personnel, including an Armed Forces and Veterans Bill to “further enshrine” the covenant into Scots law, Mr Ross also pledged to use the welfare powers at Holyrood to create a new “top-up” benefit, for veterans in receipt of Universal Credit.

There are around 220,000 veterans in Scotland, making up 9 per cent of the whole of the UK’s former military personnel, with almost 60 per cent of them aged 65 and over.

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Figures also suggest around 800 Scottish veterans were assessed as homeless in the past two years.

Douglas Ross has unveiled a series of pledges for veterans.

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Mr Ross said action was needed as there was “confusion” about the application of the UK’s Armed Forces Covenant in Scotland, and by “enshrining it into law we would make sure that that it was fully understood".

The law would, he said, give serving and former military personnel, and their families, guaranteed access to key services and products such as education, jobs, healthcare and the property market.

Mr Ross said: "Scotland has long played a proud and essential role in our military history. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our service men and women, but warm words are not enough.

"Too many veterans and families are failed and their sacrifices go unrecognised.

"While many thrive and prosper after their military service, some end up homeless, struggle to get medical care or some even become trapped in a cycle of reoffending.

"Our Armed Forces and Veterans Bill will further enshrine the voluntary Armed Forces Covenant into law. This will ensure that military personnel in Scotland are guaranteed access to a variety of key services.

"In addition, we would make use of the Scottish Parliament's powers to deliver a Universal Credit top-up for veterans who have the greatest need.

"The Scottish Conservatives stand shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces and veteran community. That is why we fought at Westminster for personnel stationed in Scotland to be compensated for the SNP’s higher income taxes, so that they don't receive less pay than those serving in the Armed Forces anywhere else in the UK.”

Mr Ross, who is MP for Moray, but standing for the Scottish Parliament, said his party, if elected, would use Holyrood's devolved welfare powers to create a new top-up benefit for veteran households in receipt of Universal Credit, worth £10 extra a week, or £520 per year.

He has also pledged the Scottish Tories would establish a new Help to Buy scheme, with specific provision for veterans and their families.

Responding, veterans minister Graeme Dey said: “The SNP has a proud track record when it comes to standing up for our military communities and their families, including through action to improve employment opportunities, supporting almost 200 projects through the Scottish Veterans Fund, and bringing in the Veterans Railcard at a cheaper introductory rate than elsewhere in the UK.

“We will work with anyone to properly support our veterans community, but the Tories claim to champion our armed forces rings hollow to those who have seen the chronic underinvestment and years of brutal cuts.”

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