Firefighters who have served in HM armed forces met the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary responsible for veteran’s affairs and the Scottish Veterans Commissioner today (Friday 27 March).
The visit to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) College at Cambuslang coincided with the publication of a report from the commissioner about the experiences of people in Scotland who leave the military and make the switch to civilian life.
Chief Officer Alasdair Hay of SFRS said: “Former members of the armed forces and those who continue to serve as reservists bring outstanding benefits to their employers.
“Whether it’s our frontline crews, personnel at Operations Control or our support staff, people across the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service face challenging roles requiring them to work under often difficult circumstances.
“It’s not just about physical fitness and courage, although these are areas where there is a clear correlation between the attributes required in operational firefighters and those who serve in the navy, the army, the Royal Air Force and the marines.
“Integrity, professionalism, leadership and the ability to stay calm under pressure are key qualities we need in our personnel and they are certainly found in armed forces veterans.”
His words were echoed by Pat Watters, the chair of the SFRS Board, who added: “Former military personnel and others who are part of the reserve forces make a significant contribution to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
“Our 9,000 staff across the country work to protect every community and the service depends on people in Control Rooms, on fire appliances and others working behind the scenes to ensure it's always ready to respond whenever an emergency strikes.
“That obviously involves a huge variety of roles and brings together people with many different specialisms and career backgrounds.
“It’s clear veterans have a wide range of valuable skills and any employer who isn’t aware of that risks losing out on people who would be a great asset to their team.”
The skills and strengths veterans gain from their experience in the armed forces are known to be assets for civilian employers.
Transition in Scotland is the first independent report by Scottish Veterans Commissioner Eric Fraser. It highlights the wide range of support already provided by devolved public services to veterans and makes suggestions where improvements can be made.
Speaking at the SFRS College in Cambuslang, Veterans Secretary Keith Brown said: “I very much welcome the constructive suggestions the report sets out.
“The Scottish Government will look to engage with our partners to identify the best way of taking these forward and is committed to adapting and improving our public services to meet these needs.
“I tasked Eric to consider the outcome of Lord Ashcroft’s Veteran’s Transitions Review when he was appointed as Scotland’s first Veterans Commissioner.
“This is the first role of this type created in the UK and sets a clear example of how important veterans are. We wanted an objective, transparent, thorough report, and that has been delivered.
“Eric’s independence allows him to hold us to account and identify in areas such as housing, employment and health where we can do more to help people leaving the military, and make Scotland an even more attractive location for those considering settling with their families in Scotland.
“Transition from the armed forces works well for many people and there are several excellent examples of where partnership working is delivering real benefits for veterans in Scotland.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is an excellent model of an employer that is actively supportive of veterans, and it has been a real pleasure to meet so many of them today.
“However, we also need to ensure early help is there for people that need additional support to make the change, and the Scottish Government takes very seriously its responsibilities in making sure that support is available and effective.”
Eric Fraser, Scottish Veterans Commissioner added: “As I looked into the transition process in Scotland, I was impressed by the first-class support provided across all sectors but there are areas where improvements can be made.
“My recommendations focus on improving the provision of information and adapting public policy to reduce the risk of longer-term disadvantage to Service Leavers.
“By shifting the emphasis to prevention, I am encouraging the Scottish Government and its partners to develop early interventions which can ease transition and prevent long-term problems.
“Some in the ex-Service community will always need specific support to allow them to adjust to civilian life and it is essential that they get the help they require.
“But this must be balanced by promotion, to ensure that Service Leavers are seen as valued and valuable members of society, with an expectation that their outstanding skills and attributes can make a major contribution to Scotland’s economy and its communities.
“I sense that Scotland is determined to welcome all those who have served – including their families – and look forward to seeing Scotland becoming a destination of choice for Service Leavers - a country that makes the most of their strengths, skills and attributes.”
The commissioner’s Transition in Scotland report can be found at http://www.gov.scot/About/public-bodies/veterans-commissioner/Publications/TransitioninScotlandReport.