FOR decades, the Scouting movement has been synonymous with camp fires, bob-a-job and boys.
But in a world of social media and ever-evolving youth culture, Scouts are enjoying a surprising resurgence, one partly driven by girls.
Scottish Scouting has grown 4.1 per cent in the past year, almost double the UK’s 2.1 per cent, to just under 43,000 members, new figures show. That is the highest number since 1999.
The number of teenagers signing up has risen by 8.8 per cent in the past year, while the number of adult volunteers joining across Scotland has doubled.
Interest among girls has doubled in the past six years. There are now 5,000 girl Scouts – the equivalent of one in seven of all youth members.
Girls accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the 1,300 new youth members who joined during the past year.
Elaine McLaren, a Scout leader in Aberdeen, has seen the movement adapt to the modern world while maintaining its core purpose.
She said: “I have been involved in Scouts most of my life. It’s a really great way to meet people who are up for trying new things.
“It’s really diverse. It’s not just the traditional activities. You get the outdoor activities, but we also address social issues as well. We’ve got a camp coming up where we’re going to be making a movie. We’ll be taking photographs of what is going on around us and watching it on a big projector.”
Ms McLaren is an explorer leader with the Mannofield Explorer Unit.
The Scouting movement is broken down into six to eight-year-old Beavers; eight to ten-year-old Cubs; ten to 14-year-old Scouts; 14 to 18-year-old Explorer Scouts; and the 18 to 25-year-old Network.
One reason for the increase in membership is growth in remote areas, funded through the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities grants.
New packs have been established in areas such as Portree on the Isle of Skye and Ballachulish in Lochaber, which have not had Scout groups for decades.
That accounted for almost 20 per cent of new members and, buoyed by this success, Scottish Scouting is looking to reach out to other areas.
Chief commissioner Graham Haddock, who heads up the organisation in Scotland, said: “We are delighted with yet another year of strong growth figures.
“None of this would be possible without the dedication of our 7,000 adult volunteers who give of their time either regularly or ad hoc, and we thank them for making these opportunities a reality for the young people they interact with.”
NINE-year-old Lauren Field had more reason than most girls to join the Scout movement.
Her parents met in the Venture Scouts and unsurprisingly have happy memories of their time in the movement.
But for now, Lauren, who is part of a group in Dalgety Bay, is more excited by the prospect of camping and building fires.
“I have been going to Cubs for nine months,” she said. “But I was in Beavers before that.
“I get to learn about what other Cubs and Scouts do in other parts of the world. We play games, collect badges and go camping a lot of the time.”
In fact, she is camping at Fordell Firs, near Dunfermline, this weekend. Speaking yesterday, as she prepared to set off, she said: “I’m really looking forward to it. You buddy up with friends and learn skills for the future, such as making fires and stuff, which is useful.”
She is happy to see more girls joining the Scout movement and believes that anything boys can do, girls can do just as well.