Gordon MacDonald, an SNP MSP, has written to Gavin Williamson after figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request found that the number of vacant MoD properties in Scotland has increased from 690 in 2013 to 1136.

In the letter to the secretary of state, the SNP Edinburgh Pentlands representative called on the MoD to help homeless veterans. The letter, as reported here, states:

“The risk of homelessness is all too common among veterans, some of whom will struggle to adapt to civilian life or may suffer from mental illness such as PTSD.

The Scottish Government is stepping up actions to tackle homelessness – driving forward a number of activities to specifically address veterans’ homelessness. Over the past eight years there has been a 39% reduction in homeless applications in Scotland.

Recent figures show that 1136 properties, owned by the Ministry of Defence, currently sit empty in Scotland – a staggering rise from 690 vacant homes in 2013. While I understand some of these properties are in need of modernisation or have structural damage, many are considered ‘surplus’ and could be used as housing for veterans on their route to a permanent tenancy.

The Ministry of Defence has a duty of care to help those who have served – I believe it is time to bring this vacant housing into use for the public good.”


  1. But we might need these houses for when the army gets up to its full strength! If it ever will again. And housing for 1000 isn’t exactly lots now is it!…

  2. Morning all
    You have to remember the goal of what was the DHE is to release as many homes as possible back to the market so Annington Homes (or which ever company now manages them) can sell them.

    This has been going on since the early 2000’s, what the MSP should be looking st is the quality of the housing stock held by the MoD (not just the new housing being built around the Bulford/Salisbury Plain area) and making sure that military families are living in accommodation that is fit for purpose.

    Putting homeless veterans into empty MQ’s doesn’t solve the question of why the veteran is in that position in the first place, the MSP needs to be looking at that first before they try and grab headlines and mix up two issues.

    The MoD provide a poor duty of care when it comes to the dealing with veterans that have fallen on hard times, not just those poor homeless souls – some of whom have spent a lifetime being looked after and cared for by an institution and then released to their own devices when their service is no longer required.

    Giving a veteran an ID card makes the news but doesn’t solve the wider problem of people leaving controlled environments where the system is built to support you in to wider society where that safety net is taken away.

    The strategic aim with regards to MoD housing stock (married quarters) is to release it to the open market, this is where financial decisions made in the late 90’s and early 2000’s out weigh the needs and ethos of the military need.

    The issue of dealing with the minority of service leavers who have fallen on hard times because the system was never designed to deal with those that have left it is different.

    All MP’s, MSP’s and AM’s should be looking at these issues separately, clearly articulating the issues and holding ministers and civil servants to account.

    It is a travesty that we as a nation don’t have the systems in place to deal with those servicemen and women who through no fault or fault of their own need some help to get them to become the members of society that they once were, to make them feel valued again – as they were when they served.


      • Hi Daniele
        Always reading, keeping up to date – more comments to follow but in this subject it annoys when elected officials whether through ingnorance or ego don’t fully understand what they are saying other than to get a letter published. Just because an MSP can read and quote statistics doesn’t mean they understand this issue.

  3. i have to agree with you Lee,when i was serving and you got your pay,all your food accommodation etc was taken out before you got it,i would be responsible for my other finances ie car loan insurance etc,but i knew blokes who used to struggle but they could go down to the pay office who would look and help you out of a situation,like many other issues besides pay etc,then once your out of the military it,s like being hit in the face with a brick,trying to even find any sort of advice can be a minefield on it,s own i was lucky because i have good friends and family who helped me but there are a lot of ex servicemen who don,t or don,t like to ask..i bumped into a guy at a car boot sale my wife was at who looked really down and out,turned out he was an ex soldier facing divorce and being made homeless,i gave him the details to contact the Royal British legion over a coffee a few weeks later i bumped into him again in the town and he has a flat with furniture and is getting help with PTSD,so i encourage any ex service personnel out there who have any sort of problems speak to someone do not bottle it up there are people who are out there to help…..

  4. Hi Andy
    It tells you something that charities need to pick up the slack due to the dereliction of duty of government in support of those who have served.

    The purchase of new toys is one thing, it grabs the news and gets a politician in the paper – care of those that have served on the other hand…..

  5. There was a TV program on this maybe in the last month or two, showing how some were not just in bad repair, but vandalised as well. Can’t remember much about it, it was on in the background.

    Seems to me the total numbers aren’t the important thing, it’s where they are. I’d guess some vacant ones would be in amongst occupied ones, clearly the MOD would want to keep them, and they might be in better repair.

    But some could be in areas that are totally unoccupied, and even then they are both an asset and a liability to the MOD, as there would be no surrounding supervision, like neighbours.

    I’d suggest the MOD look at these isolated ones from the point of view of a balance sheet over a term of say 5 years, and if the likelihood is they’ll not be used at all, then it would be cheaper perhaps to give them away for £1 each than face ongoing costs, specially if they become structurally dangerous as the MOD would be liable for any accidents.

    So, basically, it’s not numbers, it’s classifying them that needs to be done, and I’d hope the MOD have done that already.

    It would as Lee H suggests, be a UK wide problem and a UK wide solution, with a release of properties letting the Scottish Government do its own thing. Current Scottish Minster who has responsibility for Veterans is Graeme Dey who’s also responsible for Parliamentary Business at Holyrood, appointed in June 2018, after Keith Brown was elected SNP depute and gave up the ministerial post to concentrate on being depute (and Independence). Keith Brown is a vet himself, from the Falklands.

  6. i know years ago loads of married quarters were sold off at catterick for peanuts,now they are crying out for married quarters as catterick has become the UK,s biggest base,seems the left hand does not know what the right is doing

  7. Evening all
    Many thanks for the comments above, all showing a great interest in the plight that, whilst a sad indictment on the way we treat our veterans, only gets brought up when a website publishes a letter from an MSP trying to score some political points (however honourably the intent of the letter was meant).

    Military training is designed to take individuals from all walks of life and mould them into instruments of policy regardless of background, educational standard, creed, colour or beliefs.

    The military provide an environment that allows HMG to get the most out of each individual by giving them an environment where the “admin” of daily life is taken care of and where they can focus on doing what they joined up to do. Whilst some of the standards of accommodation and welfare isn’t always great the military “can do” mentality nearly always ensures that the serving and their dependents have a sense of belonging – they group together and improvise and adapt.

    When those individuals leave the service the military provide, dependent on length of service a variety of methods (training, gratuity, pension etc) to allow those serving personnel the best opportunity to continue their lives outside of the military system they have been fully integrated into.

    If we were to fully believe the last paragraph military charities would not be required, at least not to the extent that we do today.

    The system is not working, charities are having to pick up more of the slack – defence seems focused on new toys and fighting the next battle when in reality they haven’t won the last one, making sure that those that have given are appropriately supported, cared for and more importantly – valued.

    This is an institutional issue, all charities have honorary chairs (former senior officers) but do not seem to be able to work together to help those in need. Each charity has its own target group to look after when, by working together, we could potentially provide a holistic way of making sure that our veterans are looked after. These people were good enough for the country when they joined up so they should be good enough now.

    These honorary members, chairmen/women et al all know each other, they all socialise with each other. Isn’t now the time, as a board, they got together and remember why they were picked to head these organisations – work together and see if something can be done to make sure that, if the MoD are going to neglect these individuals and focus on ships, tanks and jets, let people know work is going on to support these veterans.

    • Lee “an MSP trying to score some political points”. LOL.

      What else are all politicians of any flavour of politics for?

      They can still do some good all the same, even if accidentally.

  8. i think all politicians should do a period of military service of some extent,that way the idiots may well understand how the military operate and also make sure all ex forces are looked after,i served for 15 years and in a way lucky yes i was diagnosed with PTSD after the mess of Bosnia,as well as live training incidents i have been fortunate in some ways where i have been able to get some help and support,but people have come back from iraq and afghan and got absolutely got sod all help or advice,or anything just a go on then do one,no wonder so many are on the streets and Lee is right it should not be left to charities or Joe public to pick the pieces up…the support and advice should be there from day 1 from when the final medical is done

  9. How many local authority houses are lying empty in Scotland? If the SNP are so anxious about ex service personnel could some of these not be used? Just asking.


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