11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918 is a time and date that will never, and should never, be forgotten; the time when the Armistice came into force to cease the unimaginable horrors of the fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and Germany.

For those of today’s generation, it can be very difficult to comprehend the scale of loss in the Great War but Remembrance Sunday affords us the opportunity, not only to express our gratitude to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but also to learn the lessons of that conflict.

It has been estimated that more than 15 million people from around the world died in the war. Every single one of those people was somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s sibling, or somebody’s fiancé or spouse.

Many, many millions more were injured, and often they never recovered from their injuries.

The Rutherglen Reformer has written many poignant articles over the last few weeks regarding World War I, ranging from stories of local people who lost their lives, to the celebrations in Rutherglen when peace became a reality.

I’m sure the people of Rutherglen and Cambuslang will have been touched to see the Roll of Honour printed in the paper over the last few weeks. The names on which will have included parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, showing that although the war may seem a distant memory, its effect locally is still felt now.

In all, 545 men from Rutherglen lost their lives, around 400 men from Cambuslang, and two women from the town – Catherine Connor and Jeanie Watson.

Ordinary men and ordinary women who did not return to their home towns.

We cannot change the fact the war took place over 100 years ago; however, we can learn to understand what happened to ensure we build a better world now.

As Minister for Mental Health, I am all too aware of the effect conflict can have upon someone’s mental health. The cost and sheer horror of war does not stop once an armistice is signed or when a conflict ends.

Scotland’s role in treating those suffering from the mental effects of combat dates back to the Great War when Craiglockhart War Hospital cared for ‘shell-shocked’ men struggling with their experiences on the Western Front. Famous war poet Wilfred Owen was himself treated at the hospital to address his extreme trauma.

This September, I had the privilege to visit Erskine care home facility in Bishopton and saw first-hand a number of fantastic projects they undertake to support veterans and their families nowadays. The Scottish Government is equally committed to ensuring that the healthcare needs of serving personnel and veterans are better understood and supported in the National Health Service.

As a society, we owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and we must ensure that that is recognised through high-quality services to meet their needs, and this is something which I am utterly committed to.

As we do every November, we remember with respect and with gratitude all those who died. We honour all those who contributed to the war effort and we resolve once again to do everything in our power to promote a more peaceful world for our future generations.


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