THE armed forces community in the Borders received a highly visible mark of support from local public sector organisations this week.
Scottish Borders Council (SBC) and partners strengthened their backing for service personnel and their families with the signing of an Armed Forces Community Covenant at the local authority’s headquarters in Newtown St Boswells, on Tuesday.
Representatives from the armed forces, SBC, NHS Borders, Job Centre Plus, registered social landlords, the charitable and voluntary sector, and the business and commercial sector were all present to add their signatures to the document.
The aim of the covenant is to encourage organisations across the region to support the armed forces community to access the assistance they might need.
SBC convenor Councillor Alasdair Hutton hosted the ceremony and signed the document on behalf of the local authority.
He said: “Members of the armed forces deserve our respect, support and fair treatment. They should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
“And for some, those who have given most, such as the injured and the bereaved, we should be ready to give our special consideration.”
Representing the armed forces at the signing ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Sandy Fitzpatrick – commanding officer of 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (6 SCOTS) – said the signing of the covenant was a clear indication by public sector groups in the Borders of their commitment to increased integration between the community and the armed forces.
“It is excellent news for everyone serving in and associated with the military in the region,” he said.
“The military has always enjoyed a close working relationship with our local community and this is further evidence of its enduring support.”
As part of the covenant, members of the armed forces will also be encouraged to do as much as they can to support the communities they live in and promote activities which help integrate the service community into civilian life.
The UK Government launched the Armed Forces Covenant in July last year and encouraged the introduction of such covenants between civilian communities and the armed forces based or living in their areas.
As part of that launch, the Ministry of Defence set up a community covenant grant scheme.
Its aim is to put the community covenant into action and strengthen the ties and mutual understanding between the armed forces and the communities in which they work, are based or live.
The Scottish Government has supported the establishment of community covenants and encouraged applications for funding.