A BARRHEAD veteran has praised an East Renfrewshire scheme that offers free health and wellbeing support for former servicemen.

Willie McColl was referred to East Renfrewshire's Health for Heroes plan after suffering from multiple health issues since leaving action.

The 72-year-old served his country for 23 years, mainly in the Territorial Army volunteering for the Gulf War in 1990.

After returning home he worked for Glasgow City Council before poor health forced him into retirement.

Since joining the initiative Mr McColl has lost weight and his fitness has improved.

Mr McColl socialising with other veterans at the scheme's 'Veterans Breakfast'Mr McColl socialising with other veterans at the scheme's 'Veterans Breakfast' (Image: East Renfrewshire Health and Leisure)

Willie said: "When you finish [the army], you miss it.

"Transitioning back into the 'normal' world is one of the most difficult things.

"When I first came back, I didn't belong anywhere."

Willie suffered many health issues including diabetes and pneumonia, which he believes were made worse during lockdown.

However, through the Health for Heroes initiative, Willie has lost nearly four stones in weight and is now considered one of the fittest in his gym classes.

He said: "I started speaking to the team and coming to the gym regularly, I am now around four stone lighter and one of the fittest in my classes."

Mr McColl enjoying a live active classMr McColl enjoying a live active class (Image: East Renfrewshire Health and Leisure)

He added: "I am also a volunteer assistant, so I support the classes by bringing down the tea, coffee and water and organising the chairs.

"I've found a wee role for myself and it gives me something to do.

" I'm also a member of a book club at Barrhead Foundry library, it's a release for me."

East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure was the first leisure trust in Scotland to roll out this initiative in 2019.

It provides armed forces veterans with a free fitness membership, consultation with an exercise specialist, gym access, fitness classes, and swimming.

Chris Vance, a team member and gym instructor, said: "The Health for Heroes initiative is designed for ex-servicemen and women who need that extra bit of support due to mental and physical health conditions.

"They're doing really well and I'm always so impressed at how hard they work."

Jane Duncan, East Renfrewshire Council veterans support advisor, said: "We owe so much to those who serve to protect our peace and freedom and this project is such a great example of ensuring that veterans have the best possible experience in the community."

Find out more about East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure on their website.