On Armed Forces Day, Member of Parliament Stewart McDonald published a new paper which recognises the vital role the Armed Forces plays, sets out key policies to improve conditions, and which aims to act as a key cornerstone of Scotland’s approach to the Forces community.

The paper – ‘A Modern Armed Forces: A new offering for personnel, veterans and service families‘ – highlights the heroic effort of personnel over the past year in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout, calls out what the author calls the neglect with which successive UK governments have treated the Armed Forces with, and sets out a range of key policies to improve and strengthen the Forces community and make it fit for the modern age.


This article is an opinion piece and is not necessarily an opinion shared by the UK Defence Journal, we encourage submissions from all parts of the political spectrum and leave it up to you, the reader, to decide. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.


The policies include recommendations around recruitment and retention, working conditions and pensions, housing, veteran affairs, education and health, and the establishment of an Armed Forces Representative Body.

Commenting, Scottish National Party Shadow Defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald MP, said:

“From assisting with the rollout of life-saving vaccines across Scotland to undertaking peacekeeping missions, members of the Armed Forces have quietly continued their vital work during this past unprecedented and difficult year. As we mark Armed Forces Day, we must go beyond the rhetoric and take steps to properly recognise the role and contribution of our Forces personnel, and to address the serious challenges facing them and their families.

For far too long, successive UK governments have failed our Armed Forces – with personnel expected to make enormous personal sacrifices in exchange for some of the worst pay and conditions offered by any European or NATO ally. On housing, pay, recruitment, retention, support for military families or those who leave the armed forces, the UK government has let too many people who have served in uniform down.

But it is incumbent on us to bring forward solutions and that is what I am pleased to be doing today. I hope the publication of this new report, which contains recommendations aimed at improving terms and conditions for those in the armed forces, is taken seriously by the UK government and acts as a catalyst to move us beyond the usual platitudes. Members of the armed forces want action now and that is what this report is about.”

You can read the report here.

 

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Dern
Dern
8 days ago

That’s great and all… but since he’s not in government will this actually achieve anything? Reading through the report: How does raising the age of recruitment to 18 aid recruitment of the British Army? Combine this with the statement at the outset of the piece that he wants 12,000 personnel stationed in Scotland and it sets a bad tone that this is a personal wishlist not a serious look at what the Armed Forces need, which just makes it easier for it to be dismissed. A bad opening gambit I’d say. Plus, being an SNP minister he manages to omit… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Dern
Andy P
Andy P
8 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Haven’t read it all Dern but personally I’m all for raising the age of recruitment to 18. Before that (might be 17 1/2) you can’t deploy them properly and there’s the duty of care element as they’re technically children. Its crap for the ‘kids’ too as their older mates can go to the pub, stay out all hours etc.

On a separate note, I’m glad (at least in England) that they’re looing at upping the age when people can get married to 18, apologies for going totally off topic.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

The armed forces have been trying to align with civilian practice for years. Why now deviate and deny an army career to a 16 year old when all other employment is open to a 16-year old?
Recruiting in the army has been poor for years and the Service is under-recruited. Ending recruitment at 16 will worsen the situation.
No soldier is deployed operationally until they are 19 irrespective of the age at enlistment.

Andy P
Andy P
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Tesco don’t send you away for several weeks at a time from your mum for starters. You do have to be 18 to be a firefighter or police offer though, maybe a better comparison.

I’ve given a logic to why I think it should be 18 above, I can expand on it and by all means disagree with it if you want but you don’t seem to have read it.

Rogbob
Rogbob
6 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Age of recruitment is a moral/principle issue – not one of recruitment numbers.

The Army’s issues with recruitment are not related to age and should not be lumped in with this.

If anything, its issues need greater exposing in the hope they might actually be dealt with.

Andy P
Andy P
6 days ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Agree mate, if the Army (or any of the Forces) have a problem with numbers then its retention they need to sort rather than recruitment.

Most people don’t join the Forces to become millionaires but if you feel respected and valued then you’re more likely to be happy and stay put.

Rogbob
Rogbob
6 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

Completely agree. The UK gets a lot of flack for “child soldiers” and its unnessecary bad PR. It makes it harder to criticise nations with actual child soliders as its just something that they can throw back.

They arent usable, come with an admin and supervision burden and frankly why are we morally happy doing this when just waiting a but puts them clearly and unambiguously in the adult category.

Iirc education is now mandatory to 18, voting is 18 and marriage may well be soon. That seems the appropriate line.

Ron
Ron
5 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

Erm, not really I joined at 15 1/2 and reported for duty on my 16th birthday, it was also the same day as my last O level and last day in school so I remember it very well. I went to the Army Aprrentice College in Harrogate. I look back on that time as some of the best years of my life. I don’t know what it was like for junior infantry but the tech schools was good fun. Not only that but we were better trained than then men that came from the Signals training unit we had civie… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
5 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Hi Ron, I’m not sure when you joined, I first joined in ’86 and its a very different society we live now. There’s been a few changes in the Forces too, leave is now a right and the goalposts have (fairly to an extent) been moved from ‘working’ 24/7. I’m not saying everything is peachy and the younger ones take a few years longer to get to a reasonable pay (which has become a barrier to slightly older folk with responsibilities joining). I get what you’re saying about apprentices who may take longer to train, maybe some ‘sponsorship’ system similar… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
8 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Having now read it, and trying to put aside the political point scoring there is some decent stuff amongst the chaff. A Forces Federation is LONG overdue (in my view) and the resettlement package is pretty woeful. They’re also right about charity having to pick up the slack on what should be core government stuff like if you send guys to war and they break then the government picks up the tab. It might help stop governments being quick to send guys to war. There is some point scoring and inspirational froth (and maybe a wee bit of pandering to… Read more »

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

Agreed that there is some good stuff in there. But as I said, because it’s a SNP party piece that dooms it to be consigned to the waste paper bin in Westminster.

If he’s serious about helping the armed forces drop the Party Politics and help us, otherwise it’s about him, not about the armed forces.

Andy P
Andy P
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

You might as well wish for that large penis, 7 figures in the bank account and a Porsche (although either of the second would make up for the first) as wish for politicians to stop playing politics.  😂  I was rolling my eyes at the ‘virtue signalling’ guff at the start too (and further in) but they’re all as bad as each other for that. All the ‘rodent infested’ and ‘lowest paid’ stuff was pandering to the gallery, same as comparing the wages to firemen etc but wade through that pish and try and see past it. I… Read more »

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

I’m not saying stop playing politics, I’m saying if he’s serious about wanting to reform the armed forces he needs too actually push for it. As it is it’s just transparant and will achieve nothing.

There have been one or two SNP politicians interested in the military, so I’m not sure that one SNP MP publishing a political piece mascerading behind the Armed Forces really indicates a policy shift for them IMO.

Andy P
Andy P
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

“really indicates a policy shift for them IMO.” Fair dos, I’ve been looking at their policies since the 90’s, mostly in fascination at how wide of the mark they would be if the SNP got it’s way. It’s always been very much on the sidelines although as they’ve been in power for a while and need to have some better thought out policies then they probably have got a bit sharper about it. The SNP pusing out a ‘wishlist’ is part of the shmooze, kudos to them for now trying to engage with the Forces, its never been a hunting… Read more »

GlynH
GlynH
5 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

Porsche ! Dear God.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Why does he want as many as 12,000 in Scotland? – that is disproportionately high for an army that is heading downwards to 70,000 troops.

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Because he’s SNP, so anything to manufacture a grievence with Westminster…
Of course kind of at odds with the objective of improving retention when you want to base people in Scotland….

Andy P
Andy P
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

There are more than just soldiers in the Armed Forces. Not that you’d know it when you look at things like the news, you’d think only the army had been helping out with covid jabs.

Last edited 7 days ago by Andy P
BobA
BobA
3 hours ago
Reply to  Andy P

To read the news you’d think the military had saved the vaccination programme when in reality it’s a couple of hundred medical personnel and about 50 planning staff in an overall workforce of 125,000 from NHS, charities and private sector.

Andy P
Andy P
12 minutes ago
Reply to  BobA

I know what you’re saying, they have maybe had a disproportionate representation. That’s life, I was meaning that they weren’t all ‘soldiers’ though, I’ve got friends in FOSNNI’s marine band that have been doing it too and its all ‘soldiers’. Probably being pedantic.

farouk
farouk
8 days ago

The article is somewhat amiss by not pointing out it is a SNP document Not only that it affords nothing but bluster, for example much is made of raising the age of recruitment to 18, yet nobody under the age of 18 deploys, those who join as juniors not only need the permission of their parents, but they can leave when they want whilst in training and finally and a big finally they cannot be deployed until they are 18. That is policy which has been extant for donkeys , finally and a big finally this from a political party… Read more »

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Andy P
Andy P
8 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Farouk, do you think the resettlement is currently any good ??? I was lucky enough that I didn’t really need a second career (and as it turned out a job after a bit of belt tightening) but the meagre money that was available to me was pretty limiting if I had wanted to retrain and I had transferable skills. The one week long ‘CV writing course’ was ok if you just needed a bit of a polish before heading off to be a civvy but if you were either too young to know anything else or basically ‘institutionalised’ (and I’ve… Read more »

farouk
farouk
8 days ago
Reply to  Andy P

When I did my resettlement, I did a 6 week computer course ,but for me it was just a stocking filler, as I already had things sorted. But going back to the 1 week CV course, the staff there actually turned around and stated that I didn’t need to be there as I had every planned . Yet on chatting to some of the others there I was shocked at how little some of the infantry lads on the cse had prepared. 1 lad hadn’t sorted out any accommodation for his family another couldn’t even drive. Ive always prepared for… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by farouk
farouk
farouk
7 days ago
Reply to  farouk

There’s already plenty of orgs who help out servicemen and former service men, I have the defence discount card, cost me a £5 i think, (used it a lot) My local council offers a forces discount card which is free, and I might (once the world gets back to normal) purchase a forces vet rail card. (we used to pop into London for the shows and with my forces rail card I would purchase a First class ticket ) so I would at least get some use out of it. and then finally there are websites such as this:
https://jobs.forces.net

Andy P
Andy P
7 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I agree its a lucky dip when leaving (as per your Writer getting deployed), a mate of mine got extended past his terminal leave to stay at sea and the Navy had to pay him past his leaving date to do his resettlement. Why ???? His boss thought he was swinging the lead with a bad back and was determined to take him to sea (I’m no doc but the guy was a good mate and if he was swinging the lead he’s a way better actor than I thought). Like you I was pretty much sorted when leaving but… Read more »

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
7 days ago

Sounds same ol, same old to me. The proof of the pudding and all that … It’s not even too little too late! The armed forces have been let down and neglected for way too long, on the simplest more basic levels. If they really cared that much, they would listen to what serving soldiers are saying, before they are just about to sign off, and walk out ‘the gate’ for good. There are all manner of issues that need to be addressed, and I am not talking about nice new shiny kit and equipment. The old adage used to… Read more »

simon alexander
simon alexander
6 days ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

army should prepare their guys and girls for civilian life and continue support for those struggling to adapt.

Casterbridge
Casterbridge
6 days ago

The report fundamentally fails to understand how accommodation is delivered, making no differntation between Service Families Accommodation (SFA) housing and Single Living Accommodation (SLA). Great strides have been made in improving SFA (while there is till more to do), with continued annual investment of c£150M on improvements with funding managed outside the military chain of command, while conversely SLA is a sporadic mix and very good and very bad and funding is managed by the military commands. Though DIO did little better in SLA investment when they held the purse strings. FAM is not ‘the’ answer despite it’s sheer leaders… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago

Ah read this a little late, but pretty much SNP chuff. Getting his name in the limelight. Sounds like a paper for the possible future Scottish army (he hopes) as opposed to the AF in general. As for increasing the recruitment age to 18, more chuff. Some of the best tech schools for the young lads are available from16 and Junior soldiers/Leaders was where it was at. As an ex Junior Para, couldn’t fault it, gets you into the game early and gives you a decent lead time to grow up, mature somewhat and learn the skills. Plus it gets… Read more »

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
8 hours ago

A number of points to raise: The recruitment age. I joined as an Apprentice Electronics Engineer at 16.5 yrs, and spent 2 years doing an Apprenticeship and coming out with OND qualifications. It was always said, that more “apprentices” went on to become Artificers or get commissioned that those who joined as adults. They also tended to serve for a longer period. Preparation for Leaving the Service: As others have said, so were prepared and some were not. Those who haven’t served in the military have to realise that the educational qualifications and skill sets vary considerably, given the huge… Read more »