SCOUTING in Scotland is celebrating its seventh year of consecutive growth with our membership now just under 43,000 across Scotland – the highest it has been this century.
Our membership in Scotland last year grew at double the rate seen in the UK as a whole, which suggests that we are getting something right in what Scouting offers young people north of the Border.
So far, so good, but why should this matter to you? It matters because we believe that Scouting is a force for good in 2013 – for young people, for our adult volunteers and for the communities in which we are active.
What we deliver across Scotland in local communities every week of the year clearly has value, such that young people and adults want to be part of what we do and join our adventure. A recent independent report by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) into Scouting’s impact backed this up and found that we make a huge difference to the lives of our members and the wider community.
Eighty-eight per cent of our young people said that Scouting helps them improve their key skills, including social skills, teamwork ability, leadership ability and confidence. Nine-two per cent said that Scouting helped them build good relationships and long-lasting friendships. Moreover, 80% of community organisations and local businesses surveyed believe that Scouting benefits their organisation, and 69% said Scouting involvement benefited their clients or service users.
Despite our successes, we want to deepen our presence in all areas of Scotland, and to ensure that we offer Scouting to all in those communities.
We know that when we offer Scouting in new areas and to different communities it works. Last year, we hired a staff member to help grow Scouting in a very rural part of Lochaber – traditionally a challenging area for us. Over 300 new members signed up, many of whom have been able to experience what Scouting has to offer for the first time.
Many years ago we opened up our membership to girls. In the past decade, there has been a 70 per cent increase in girls and young women in Scouting. In Scotland in the past year 40% of our new youth members were girls.
For many years, we have proactively promoted our equal opportunities policy that includes welcoming young people and leaders who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Last year we invited Stonewall to attend our annual open day for adult volunteers. This year we will be part of Pride.
We also welcome people from different faith groups and ethnic backgrounds. Last year we launched Scout clothing that was appropriate for Muslim young women to wear. It was a reflection of our founding principle to move with the times, and it has been welcomed by all.
Just a few months ago we conducted a consultation on a revision to the fundamentals that underpin our values as an organisation. Part of that consultation asked whether we should develop an alternative version of the Scout Promise to allow us to welcome those with no affirmed faith. The results of that consultation will be known later this year.
The secret of our success is down to the enthusiasm of our volunteers, the activities we pursue, the positive differences we make to young people’s lives and the impact we have on communities. But it’s also a result of one other crucial ingredient: we are inclusive and we are not an anachronism.
We want to push on further with that agenda. Over the next three years we will be reaching out and proactively working in areas where we currently are not so strong, to seek to build our membership in these communities. We will be focusing on communities where we need to be stronger – rural areas and areas of social challenge and deprivation. We will also continue to ensure that we provide Scouting that is inclusive: for those with special needs, to all faiths and beliefs, and regardless of sexual orientation, race, age, and gender.
We believe this is important. Scouting is a positive influence on young people and adults in Scotland, and for our wider society; we want to see many more young people and adults get involved and benefit from what we do.
If you want to help Scouting in Scotland grow and join the adventure, visit www.scouts-scotland.org.uk. «
• Graham Haddock is Chief Commissioner of the Scouts in Scotland