PoppyScotland, the country’s leading Armed Forces charity, has pledged not to leave veterans out in the cold as negotiations to close the Inverness welfare centre continues.
Poppyscotland have confirmed their weekly drop-in group, traditionally held at the Strothers Lane centre, will continue as normal despite proposals to close the facility for good.
Last month, the Royal British Legion (RBL) group revealed the centre is one of two facilities facing threats of closure, with aims of reinvesting money – traditionally spent on incurring costs – on vital services.
The threats come amid plans by Poppyscotland and the RBL to invest £14million over the next three years to strengthen and expand services across the UK which have seen a surge in demand in recent years.
A group of local veterans spoke of their fury after the news left them feeling “kicked in the teeth”.
Demanding further answers, the group held a meeting with senior officials last week to try to understand the rationale behind the decision.
Senior officials pledged to hire suitable premises in Inverness for the veterans’ weekly drop-in meeting if the motion to close the centre is given the go ahead.
Former Gordon Highlander Gordon MacMillan has turned to the centre for support in recent years and says “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the centre.”
He says the veterans are disappointed by their decision over the loss of a vital local commodity in the Highlands.
He said: “We are not happy with the decision they are making and how they have made it.
“It’s a loss of our central hub for all veterans in the Highlands.”
The centre on Strothers lane became the first facility of its kind outwith the central belt following its grand opening in 2013.
Thousands of members of the Armed Forces community have turned to the centre for support over the last eight years.
A total of 112 veterans were provided with one-to-one support in the year prior to the pandemic, with a further 103 supported in the last year.
The move comes as Poppyscotland explore new and innovative ways to deliver support following a surge in demand for services in recent years.
Consultations remain ongoing with stakeholders to establish the long-term impacts these closures would have, with a final decision due in early June.
A Poppyscotland spokesman said: “While a decision on the proposal to remove the Inverness Welfare Centre is not expected until June and the dialogue with our staff, clients and stakeholders is ongoing, any closure of the premises would not mean a reduction in Poppyscotland’s support to the Armed Forces community across the North of Scotland.
“We have confirmed with our clients that existing activities, such as our weekly drop in group, will continue regardless. We look forward to a return to this being face-to-face as soon as it is safe to do so.”