Martin Davidson: Lasting positive impact from participation with a difference

Over 3,000 young people have participated in the Mark Scott Community Projects Award, with 350 projects benefitting people in local communities
Over 3,000 young people have participated in the Mark Scott Community Projects Award, with 350 projects benefitting people in local communities
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In 1995, Mark Scott, aged 16, was killed in an unprovoked sectarian attack in Glasgow. From these tragic circumstances, an awareness formed of the importance of understanding others from different religious, cultural and social backgrounds.

From a starting point of communicating and connecting with those who are different, the fruits of empathy between seeming adversaries could begin to blossom. The Mark Scott Foundation (started by Mark’s family and friends) and The Outward Bound Trust set up The Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award (MSLfLA) in response.

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.

Having completed 21 years, the MSLfLA is delivered by Outward Bound in Scotland, with fundraising support from the Mark Scott Foundation. It develops the attitudes, skills and behaviours that young people require as they prepare to move into higher education, training or employment, and to contribute positively to society.

Selected Scottish young people aged 16-17 years, work together in teams over a six month period during their final year at school. The teams are deliberately mixed to include participants from different backgrounds and schools, to encourage tolerance and understanding.

The participants attend a challenging five-day outdoor residential at Outward Bound’s Loch Eil centre, then return home armed with the purpose of identifying, organising and delivering a project that benefits their local community.

Funding Success

The Scottish Government made a financial commitment to support The Trust’s ambition of enabling 1,000 young people to participate in the Award from 2012-2017. Since then, further support has been committed and The Outward Bound Trust was delighted when the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf joined the 2019 Award ceremony back in April to present the Awards to 150 young people, announcing a further £75,000 to fund the 22nd year of the Award.

Benefits to the community

Over 3,000 young people from schools across central Scotland have participated in the Award, with 350 projects benefitting people in local communities. Recent projects include renovating a children’s room in a Women’s Aid centre, providing starter packs for the homeless as they move into their first tenancy and renovating gardens at a local children’s hospice. Ceilidhs, arts and crafts and afternoon tea for elderly residents in sheltered housing helped tackle isolation and workshops delivered in secondary schools across Glasgow raised awareness of mental health issues.

Building Confidence, Raising


Research shows that many young people lack confidence, do not recognise their own abilities and flounder in making positive steps forward in work and education. In order for the Scottish Government’s efforts to build stronger and more empowered communities, young people need inspiration to develop their skills and become active citizens. 2018-19 saw more young people from deprived backgrounds participating in the MSLfLA, with more than 50 per cent coming from the 30 per cent most deprived communities in Scotland.

Lasting impact

Recent research carried out by Outward Bound looked at the long-term impact of participation in the programme. Data collected annually after completion provides clear evidence of lasting positive impact including personal, social and project management skills, increased confidence, the ability to get things done on time, put ideas forward and be more adaptable. 100 per cent of participants agreed they had seen positive results by applying the skills learned during the Award.

Meet Jessica and Robert¹

A powerful way to understand the life-changing impacts over time comes from the testimonies of participants themselves, some of whom undertook in-depth interviews recording their memories and learning points.

Jessica, 18 years old, a high-achiever who has struggled with depression and social anxiety, exacerbated by bullying said: “I got everything out of [the Award] that you could possibly ever get out of it because I got a different life back from it.” She recounts how: “after the Award… I realised that I need to put myself first… [Being] more open and getting more confident in myself and getting more self-aware through the Award [made me realise] I have goals that I’m not going to reach if I don’t ask for the help that I need.”

Robert, 19, described how the residential and working towards the community project helped him recognise the differences in people’s experiences and emotions and how his relationship with the group helped others.

“Towards the end [of the 
community project], a lot of people were getting worried that we weren’t going to finish… That’s what good about the [residential] week because… you talk about issues and that helps you manage them a bit more effectively.”

This evidence of the long-term impact that the Award leaves is truly a lasting tribute to Mark Scott and his family.

The success of the Award relies on funding to make it accessible to all, if you are interested in finding out more, please contact

Martin Davidson, director of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland