MORE than 2000 Scottish military veterans have registered as homeless after leaving the military in the past two years.

And at least one charity believes the number of Scottish veterans now living on the streets could be as high as 5000.

Poppy Scotland, the leading charity supporting ex-servicemen and women and their families in Scotland, says that while former service personnel account for one in 10 rough sleepers across the UK, they are 10% more likely to become homeless north of the Border and more likely to sleep rough.

Charity representatives say anecdotal evidence suggests many soldiers from Scotland are becoming more unsettled because they are demobbed south of the Border rather than close to home.

Many are failing to cope with the psychological traumas of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has led to a downward spiral of family break-up, addiction, alcohol abuse and eventually homelessness.

Charities fear the problem could get worse, with the prospect of Ministry of Defence (MoD) redundancies ahead.

Some 20,000 army regulars are due to be axed by 2017, while the RAF and Royal Navy are each losing 5000 airmen and sailors as the MoD bids to plug a £38 billion hole in the defence budget.

The Army is estimated to have already reduced the number of soldiers by 11,500 in the past three years.

More than 2000 servicemen and women are estimated to leave the armed forces every year in Scotland, and campaigners at Shelter Scotland believe there are now 5000 homeless Scots former servicemen and women.

Walter Hamilton, Scottish co-ordinator of homelessness charity Soldiers Off The Street, said more needed to be done urgently to help the homeless veterans, especially the uncounted numbers who are living rough.

"They leave the services and get forgotten about. Once they leave the Army, they should be followed up and seen every six months to see how they are doing," he said.

Managers at charity Scottish Veterans' Residences (SVR) say it cannot cope with the number of homeless veterans seeking help, and it is currently building 51 flats in the Cranhill area of Glasgow in a £6.4 million housing development to help. SVR can currently accommodate 126 homeless service personnel at its Whitefoord House on Edinburgh's Royal Mile and Rosendael in Broughty Ferry, Dundee.

Ian Ballantyne, chief executive of SVR, fears there are many more Scots former military personnel who are unaccounted for in the official figures.

"I think the statistics are a reality check," he said. "At the end of the day for us as a charity it is concern. We try our damndest to try to help them and move them on.

"There is always more needs to be done. We need servicemen to think what they are going to do when they leave the service. We must encourage them to get transferable skills and encourage them to think to the future. We have to get real here."

Alison Watson, head of services at Shelter Scotland, said: "Helping veterans to find and keep a home is a critical factor in their progress towards resettlement and getting on with their lives.

"A major hurdle to helping the veteran community is that many are reluctant to seek help and access mainstream services."

One Scottish local authority has revealed that it has recently reviewed its housing allocation policy to give a higher priority to members of the armed who are being discharged.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: "This is aimed at increasing the prospect of securing alternative accommodation with us prior to actual discharge and avoiding a homelessness situation.

"The council has recognised the potential for armed forces personnel becoming homeless as a result of being discharged from the armed services and having to vacate the tied accommodation provided."