ForcesWatch comment

Scottish petition makes headway
30/11/2016

ForcesWatch comment

Members of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to seek further evidence on our joint petition – with Quakers in Scotland – calling for greater scrutiny and guidance around military visits to schools.

The Public Petitions Committee met at Holyrood on Thursday 24 November after receiving responses from a number of interested parties and a further submission from ourselves in which we urged Members to consider the petition from a child welfare and rights perspective.

As a result the five MSPs will now obtain more views in order to give them a fully rounded picture on the issue. Parents, teachers, schools, child rights organisations, young peoples’ organisations, veterans and careers services are expected to contribute.

There was strong support for the petition from SNP MSP, Rona Mckay, who told the hearing “to say it (the military) is a career like any other career is disingenuous because it has risks that other careers don’t have.”

Her party colleague, Angus MacDonald, referring to submissions by the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland and the Scottish Government, said there “was clearly a suggestion that there may be undue or inappropriate influence being exerted” over visits.

The Convenor of the Committee, former Labour leader Johann Lamont, in summing up said the focus should be on whether the military were visiting schools on “a transparent basis and everyone has confidence that they are not targeting particular groups.”

The two Conservative members, Brian Whittle and Edward Mountain were less favourable to the aims of the petition. Whittle said “the army has as much right as anyone else to describe a career in schools.”

Footage of the hearing can be found here http://www.scottishparliament.tv/Search?Keyword=petitions&keyword-submit=Search and begins at 40 minutes and 30 seconds.

After the session ForcesWatch coordinator, Emma Sangster, said "we welcome the decision of the Public Petitions Committee that this is an issue that needs serious consideration.

"Some of the committee were concerned that the armed forces are a legitimate career and should therefore be represented in schools. However, figures suggest that the armed forces have far greater access to schools that other career providers.

“Evidence submitted so far from young people suggests that information presented is often unbalanced, and sometimes not appropriate to a modern educational system.

"Evidence submitted also suggests that it is not the case that parents across Scottish schools are properly consulted. There needs to be national guidance on this.

"While, as a society, we have become all too familiar with the dangers involved in an armed forces career, we can not assume that young people are adequately aware of the range of risks and the long-term implications of them.

“This is about putting a policy into place that recognises the welfare and rights of young people over the recruitment needs of the armed forces."

In the days before, during and after the hearing in Edinburgh several major media outlets covered the story of the petition.

It featured in the Sunday Herald newspaper, The National, and had extensive coverage on the Common Space website here and here.

No firm date has, as yet, been set by the Committee for a further hearing on the petition, However this is likely to be in the new year once those bodies being contacted have had a chance to respond.

You can read the full text of the petition and find all background information here: http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/petitionPDF/PE01603.pdf

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