Scouts struggling to cope with demand

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Kayaking, abseiling and zorbing are just some of the opportunities young people enjoy when they join the Scouts so it is perhaps no surprise that record numbers are signing up.

The latest figures from the Scout Association show there are 457,000 young people involved in the Scouts, Beavers, Cubs and Explorers across the UK – 38,636 in Scotland, with 7000 joining up in the last 21 months to January this year.

However, the surge in numbers has meant an increasing demand on adult volunteers to run the branches, and groups in Linlithgow, Bo’ness and South Queensferry are not immune to those pressures.

The Scouts has the most volunteers it has had at any point in the organisation’s history, with over 154,000 adults – 11,445 in Scotland, giving up their time as youth workers, charity trustees and instructors.

However, there are more than 50,000 youngsters – 3400 of these in Scotland – still on the waiting list unable to join the Scouts because of an acute shortage of volunteers.

It is estimated that across the UK 17,000 volunteers are needed to plug the gaps.

In South Queensferry, Jonathan Clarkson (45), the chairman for 21st Craigalmond (South Queensferry) Scout Group, wants more adult volunteers to come forward and help out as further housing developments and an influx of families into the area could mean more pressure on a group which is already seeing waiting lists growing.

He said: “Scouts help to instill skills in youngsters that are missing in big corporate business today and you can help be a part of that development.

“Studies have shown that just giving up two or three hours a week of your time can reduce the stress felt from every day life.”

Jonathan also hopes that an increase in volunteers will help lighten the load of those already involved down at Port Edgar Marina where the Scouts are situated.

The chairman said they are indebted to people like hall caretaker Alan Drill (70) who, after being made redundant from his job at the bank 13 years ago, spent months painting and decorating the hall to make it a more warm and welcoming place for children and is still involved today.

The Scout Group leader is David Brown who has been with the Scouts for 40 years.

Jonathan said: “It’s people like David and Alan who keep the Scouts going and make it what it is today but we need more adults to help relieve the pressure.”

Paul Charlton (49), group leader at 4th West Lothian Scouts, started volunteering nearly 12 years ago and spoke of the huge satisfaction he gets from it.

Paul, an IT consultant, said: “I had a void in my life. I like to keep busy so I wanted to put something back into the community.

“I found it to be a complete distraction from real life you could have a really stressful day at work but for two hours you are in a bubble and it helps to clear your mind.

“You get a lot from it as it is very rewarding, it is hard work but it depends how much time you want to put in.

“For me, it has taken over my life but it doesn’t have to. That is the biggest hurdle we have got to get over, it is not a commitment for life, just an hour or two could help with fundraising events or anything like that. There is something for everybody.”

Elsewhere, Robert Nicol (66) has been involved with Scouts for 30 years and is on the committee at 3rd Bo’ness Scouts. Scouting has had a huge presence in the town since 1911 but like everywhere else it needs help to keep it thriving.

Robert said: “We need someone to come on and be a secretary on the committee. We could deal with a good deal of assistance with our younger groups particularly Cubs.

He added: “I enjoy it, you get a lot of from it and I think it has grown in popularity over the years because of people like Bear Grylls.

“But we urgently need volunteers so that children can continue enjoy the opportunities Scouts offer.”