Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has announced a series of manifesto pledges to support veterans including a new top-up benefit and a dedicated help to buy a home scheme.
The party also set out plans to bring forward a Bill to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law for devolved Scottish public bodies.
The Covenant is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
Speaking before a visit to the Royal Scots Monument in Edinburgh, 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.”
A similar Bill has already come before the UK Parliament and a Westminster Select Committee has started a survey on the forthcoming legislation.
It would introduce a legal duty on some UK public bodies to ensure the Armed Forces community is treated fairly.
Ross said the Bill in the Scottish Parliament would “ensure that military personnel in Scotland are guaranteed access to a variety of key services”.
All of Scotland’s local authorities have an existing Armed Forces Covenant Partnership but a Scottish Government report found there was some confusion around its interpretation, particularly to do with priority treatment from local services.
Ross also unveiled the Scottish Conservatives pledge to create a new top-up benefit for veterans’ households in receipt of Universal Credit. The proposed top-up would be worth £10 extra a week, or £520 per year.
The party’s manifesto also includes a pledge to introduce a veteran specific Help to Buy scheme as well as reinstating the general scheme which was closed on February 5, having been expected to run until March 2022.
The changes would impact around 220,000 veterans who live in Scotland.
Ross said: “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.
“We truly value the sacrifices made by those who have served our country and know how difficult the transition to civilian life can be.
“We want servicemen and women who choose to make Scotland their home know that they are in a country fit for heroes.”