Veterans row resurfaces

Friday October 5th 2018

Veterans row resurfaces

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A former armed forces champion has launched a scathing attack on the Ministry of Defence for leaving veterans to beg in the streets.

Midlothian councillor Joe Wallace said the MOD and UK Government needed to give more funding to help care for armed forces personnel who “came back injured either through war or through drink and drugs because of what they have seen in armed conflict”.

He said: “You see them along Princes Street with notices up with their armed number begging in the streets.

“If the MOD and the UK government are looking after them they are not doing it very well.”

The former Provost’s comments came after Scottish Conservative councillor Pauline Winchester referenced controversial comments he had made about veterans two years ago while this week asking the council to approve her motion of support for Poppy Scotland’s Count Me In campaign.

Mr Wallace was accused by Councillor Winchester of claiming the MOD had ‘dumped’ veterans in Midlothian and referring to them as “these people” during a discussion over cuts to drug and alcohol work in the county.

Council leader Derek Milligan had then called for him to be removed from his posts as Provost and armed forces veteran champion following those comments and Mr Wallace, SNP, later issued an apology to anyone who was offended by his comments.

At a meeting of Midlothian Council this week, Councillor Winchester made a motion supporting the Count Me In campaign, which wants to see a question about armed forces personnel included in the next census.

She said: “In the previous administration, then Provost Councillor Wallace said that he thought forces personnel were being dumped in Midlothian.

“By including a question in the census this would ensure that this wouldn’t happen but also allow Midlothian Council to identify if and where any extra help within this unique community is required.”

Mr Wallace called her comment a “gross misrepresentation” of the comments he had made at the meeting in 2016.

He said: “I did not say armed forces were getting dumped into Midlothian; what I did say was (in response to) a request from the Labour group leader at the time that the Scottish Government should be asked for more money to help the veterans.

“I had been informed by senior army personnel that a lot of the service men as they were coming out of the services were becoming addicted to drugs and drink and my response to the leader at the time was that instead of writing to the Scottish Government to support the armed forces we should be writing to the UK Government and the MOD.”

Mr Wallace then said he had been told by one senior army officer that seriously injured personnel were “looked after by the MOD for approximately six months then they get passed on to the national health service”.

And he raised the case of Callum Brown, the Ayrshire soldier who was told NHS funding was being withdrawn for treatment at a specialist hospital in England after he lost both legs in a bomb blats.

He said: “There was a case about a year ago where a young Scottish solider had his legs blown off in Afghanistan and was being treated in a hospital in England and after a while the NHS in England said they could no longer afford to treat him.”

Councillors voted unanimously to support the motion, which was seconded by Councillor Margot Russell, Labour.

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