Identification/non-identification among U.K. veterans in Scotland

Liz Frondigoun*, Ross Campbell, Murray Leith, John Sturgeon, Linda Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article seeks to establish how, and why, older U.K. Armed Forces veterans resident in Scotland identify as veterans. We consider both the profile and the nature of the aged veteran population in Scotland and consider the nature of inclusion and exclusion by both the individual and community elements. Our consideration of the population and nature of the Scottish resident U.K. veteran is drawn from research amongst the older veteran population in Scotland, specifically those 65 years of age and older, as this includes periods of volunteer and required service from the U.K. population. The data is sourced from our 3-year study around the support needs of older veterans who are currently residing in Scotland. Our findings illustrate that individuals come from a variety of diverse geographical origins, and express different experiences in the U.K. Armed Forces; including nature of recruitment, branch of service, length of service, deployment theatres, and differing levels of engagement in active conflicts. Extant research identifies a divide between the official U.K. institutional definitions of a veteran, which is very broad and inclusive, and the interpretation of veteran status by those who have actually been members of the U.K. Armed Forces. The U.K. Government term is extremely inclusive and so much wider than many comparative definitions as it includes anyone who has performed military service for the length of one day and/or drawn one day’s pay as a service member. Therefore, from an institutional perspective there is no perceived barrier to identifying as a U.K. veteran even for those who were negatively dismissed from service or discharged prior to formal completion of service periods. Yet, our current research reinforces previous findings that non-identification among ex-U.K. service personnel as veterans is widespread for a variety of different reasons. It is clear that the Government’s definition of a veteran is much wider and more inclusive than the perceptions of the ex-service community itself, and this appears to be the case among the wider U.K. public as well, for reasons which are wide ranging and sometimes contradictory. We found that awareness amongst the older veteran community on who is a veteran and how the term is defined is still unclear. Older veterans, that is those who meet the Government’s definition, still regularly report uncertainty on whether or not someone who did compulsory National Service can be classed as a veteran or if it is determined by length of service, and such confusion seems widespread. In addition, the exact nature of the veteran population in Scotland is also far from precise. While other countries have a long history of recording service personnel, both during and beyond service, the U.K. has no such measurable data or established clear support mechanisms for veterans, and this may have been a strong, historically contributing factor. This article therefore seeks to establish the reasons for veteran self-identification, or non-identification, but also the nature of the veteran community in Scotland, and the wider reasons why some former service personnel feel unwilling, or unable, to include themselves within that community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Veterans Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


  • older veterans
  • identification
  • non-identification
  • veteran community
  • barriers to engagement


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