This year has been one of significant military anniversaries and milestones, in particular the centenary of the First World War.
Without a doubt, the war changed our world and our communities forever. Scotland punched above its weight in the war effort and, proportionally, lost more men than anywhere else in the UK.
From this horror and destruction grew the poppy, both as the nation’s collective symbol of remembrance, and as a way to raise money to support those left destitute and with horrendous physical injuries and torturous mental scars. Although times have changed, the reality of modern-day conflict means servicemen and women are still risking their lives in our names and there is still a real need to support those who have served, those still serving and their families. Problems can start for them on the battlefield, they might arise when making the transition to civilian life on leaving the forces, or they might emerge years later.
Another important and very recent milestone has been the UK forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, after 13 years of combat operations. However, the demands placed on our servicemen and women are by no means restricted to theatres of war. One only has to look at humanitarian efforts to tackle the outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone, involving British military medics, to see that serving in the armed forces can be hazardous in less obvious ways.
The aim of Poppyscotland is to address the problems faced by those in the armed forces community, by raising money through the Scottish Poppy Appeal, Scotland’s biggest street collection. The poppy is unique in bringing the country together in a simple yet powerful act of remembrance but, importantly, it changes lives by providing much-needed support to those who need it most.
Despite the continuing difficult economic environment, the appeal raised £2.64 million last year, thanks to a wonderfully generous Scottish public. The impact of this support is huge. Poppyscotland uses money that the public donates to tackle issues in ways that are both practical and carefully focused, offering tailored support and funding, specialist advice, respite care, and help with employment, mobility and housing.
Putting a donation in a poppy tin this November gives people an opportunity to remember and honour those who lost their lives but it also enables Poppyscotland to change lives for the better. Both history and continuing world events remind us that the armed forces community is likely to need the poppy for a long time to come.
To find out more about Poppyscotland and the Scottish Poppy Appeal, visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk
• Ian McGregor is chief executive of Poppyscotland