AT ANNUAL Remembrance events, East Lothian honours the sacrifices that protected the freedoms and peace we have enjoyed for over 75 years.

Although first-hand memories of the World Wars that ravaged our continent are fading, it is heartening to see our schools ensuring that pupils remember those who paid the supreme price. I commend the commitment of those who teach children to understand the lessons from history.

Memories are kept alive in other ways: Dirleton’s war memorial has been re-dedicated and the Prestonpans war memorial is scheduled for a major upgrade. Crowds gathering silently at memorials or cemeteries across the county from Dunbar to Tranent are sharing in authentic moments when East Lothian’s communities act as one.

Recently, work has also been undertaken by volunteers, including those involved in health and wellbeing groups or other activities co-ordinated through area partnerships, to support people bereaved outside of conflict. An example is the November To Absent Friends festival, through which groups find ways of supporting those grieving for loved ones whose lives have ended in a timely way or before their time.

I’d also like to recognise those men and women who served in the armed forces and returned to civilian life physically or mentally scarred. Poppies recall those who fell in war but we should also acknowledge that amongst us are the ‘walking wounded’ from Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and other modern troubles or conflicts.

NHS Scotland and its health boards recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a UK-wide package of measures ensuring that veterans can access equitably the public and commercial services they need, as a priority if necessary, as the very least we should guarantee.

In my Holyrood maiden speech, I pledged to be a champion for mental health and was privileged to open the recent Mental Health Week debate. This highlighted that Covid-19 has exacerbated pre-existing physical and mental health inequalities; the mental health needs of young people are also an emergency. Like veterans, the young deserve the society ‘fit for heroes’ envisaged a century ago. In building back better, we must deliver.