FOR generations of Scouts, singing songs around a camp fire while roasting sausages on sticks was a male rite of passage.
But figures from the Scout Association Scotland have shown the movement is shedding its traditional image – almost half of those who signed up to join last year were girls, while nearly 16 per cent were youngsters from black and minority ethnic communities.
Some within the organisation believe Chief Scout Bear Grylls and his famous sense of adventure is largely responsible for the influx of new recruits.
The Duchess of Cambridge has also been credited with drawing youngsters into the organisation, after she visited Scout troops last year, and signed up as a flexible volunteer.
Abdul Cathcart, 42, a leader of the First Glasgow Scout Group – the first to be registered in the world – said he thought Grylls has helped change the face of Scouting and encouraged children to seek adventure.
The organisation was founded by army officer Robert Baden-Powell in 1910.
But Mr Cathcart said: “It is no longer a Christian, military, Baden-Powell picture – it is a picture of Bear Grylls out in the wilderness jumping out of helicopters and ascending cliffs.
“I think that is one of the things that has led to an overall interest in Scouting again.
“Once people then look into what the Scouts are offering, they see a very balanced programme of activities.
“When you go to the international camps, you can see in a camp field they have built a mosque next to a church.”
He added: “Cooking on open fires, building rafts and getting to make survival shelters outside – these are things the girls enjoy as much as the boys and they have found by coming into a very inclusive movement, they have been able to participate and get to do all these things.”
However, unlike the Girl Guides who have scrapped any mention of God in their pledges, the Scouts have continued to use their “core” promise, with youngsters pledging “to do my duty to God and to the Queen”.
Although the Scouts were exclusively for boys until 1976, 47 per cent of the 1,400 who joined in 2013 were girls.
There are now more than 44,000 Scouts in Scotland, and with an increase of 3.3 per cent in the past year, membership north of the Border is increasing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the UK.
Graham Haddock, chief commissioner of the Scout Association Scotland, said: “This year, girls accounted for 47 per cent of our youth member growth, and 15.5 per cent of overall growth was in BME [black and minority ethnic] communities. This is hugely encouraging. It suggests that we are becoming more inclusive and better reflective of the communities in which we live.”
He went on: “I believe that it undoubtedly shows that we really have something to offer all our members; the numbers simply wouldn’t keep going up if we didn’t.
“We still have a long list of young people waiting to join. We need more volunteers to be able to give them this opportunity.”