DURING the whole of November, and especially around Remembrance Sunday, the nation pays tribute to the brave men and women of our armed forces throughout the ages who have put themselves in harm’s way to safeguard our way of life. This year marks the 102nd anniversary of Armistice Day, and the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, and it was especially poignant to see services take place in a socially distant manner throughout the United Kingdom to mark our shared appreciation for those that served in both World Wars and in the conflicts since.

This year our tribute to the armed forces and veteran community takes on a new dimension as their work and sacrifice during the past eight months of the coronavirus pandemic has been invaluable in helping us to tackle this virus. From setting up Nightingale Hospitals across the UK, including right here in Glasgow, to supporting NHS boards, the British Army has stepped up to the plate in a way that pays testament to both their professionalism and dedication to public service. Mobile testing units have been set up by the army across Scotland from Thurso to Stranraer and RAF helicopters based at Kinloss Barracks have been critical in supporting the transfer of sick patients in rural areas to hospitals on the mainland where they can seek further treatment.

Although their sacrifice can never be fully repaid, it is undoubtedly the responsibility of every layer of government to show our gratitude and respect in more than just words. While political differences mark so many areas of our life, it’s important that in this respect we are united – which is why I was pleased to see the UK Government partner with the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Irish Assembly to publish a joint “Strategy for our Veterans”. The strategy is due to run until 2028 and covers a variety of themes including finance and debt, health and wellbeing and employment, education and skills.

I was also delighted last month to see the roll-out of the UK-wide Veterans Railcard which offers a 34% discount on rail travel, as well as an announcement from the Ministry of Defence earlier this year on enhanced access to mental health support for our defence community. At a local government level, I was proud that my group brought a motion to council in 2018 stating our commitment to an annual public event in Glasgow in celebration of Armed Forces Day and the importance of engagement with the veteran community.

Unfortunately, sometimes a small minority can try to twist the pride we should all feel in our armed forces because of their own partisan or political agendas. I was disgusted last week to see photos of Extinction Rebellion trampling over poppy wreaths during their protest at the Cenotaph. These kinds of misguided actions do nothing to further the cause of battling climate change and are a gross offence to those who gave their lives so that we could all enjoy the democratic freedoms that Extinction Rebellion continue to abuse. Earlier this year I was also sickened by a motion submitted to the Scottish Parliament by Shettleston SNP MSP John Mason who linked Armed Forces Day to “unhealthy British nationalism”. I have no doubt that he has extensive experience with peddling unhealthy nationalism but it was totally inexcusable – and an insult to those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe – for him to weaponise this slur against our troops and veterans.

That tiny minority aside, I know the whole country will join me this month in paying our respects to those that made the ultimate sacrifice. If you can, please consider making a donation to the armed forces charity of your choice. It is as true now as when Winston Churchill said it in 1940: never was so much owed by so many to so few.