10 December 2013

S4M-08016 YouthLink Scotland

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08016, in the name of George Adam, on YouthLink Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates YouthLink Scotland on the publication of what it considers the very positive recent inspection report by Education Scotland; notes the recognition in the report of the high quality contribution that YouthLink Scotland and its member organisations make to the achievement of Scottish Government outcomes; recognises the work that it undertakes in local authority areas such as Renfrewshire, where it considers the YMCA, the Scouts and Play the Game make an important difference on a daily basis to the lives of the young people of Paisley, Renfrew and Johnstone by working with particularly vulnerable groups of young people to provide them with opportunities to undertake new challenges and adventures and, as a consequence, help them toward recognising and fulfilling their potential as individuals and as active members of society, and considers that YouthLink Scotland and its member organisations from the voluntary sector, uniformed youth organisations and local authority youth services across Scotland that apply the principles and values of youth work, have been very successful in their engagement with young people through encouraging them to use a range of life skills, assisting them in their journey to adulthood and successful futures and making Scotland the best place in the world in which to grow up as a successful learner, a confident individual, an effective contributor and a responsible citizen.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

It is not insignificant that the debate follows a debate on sport, because sport is, of course, very important for youngsters in our society.

This debate is led by George Adam, so in homage to him I have my Paisley patterned galluses holding my breeks up. I thank him for the opportunity to participate in this important debate.

YouthLink is an important part of the infrastructure that exists to support our youngsters—not just in Paisley, but across Scotland.

The motion refers to a number of other organisations and, in particular, to the scouts. I spent probably something of the order of a year of my life under boy-scout canvas. If I benefited from that it is to the credit of the scouts; my faults are entirely my own. I acquired important skills in the boy scouts; I learned how to burn baked potatoes, which I did instead of chasing girls, so it probably was not a terribly bad thing to be doing at the appropriate age. Certainly my mother preferred me to be burning potatoes to carrying out other activities in which I might have indulged.

Alex Johnstone and I visited the conclave of the great and the good in the scouting movement in the north-east of Scotland recently, which was quite an illuminating experience. They had in the room a wide range of projects. Some were outdoor projects to do with self-development, such as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, for which people were working. Others were community-based projects in which the young people were learning to support people in their communities. I thought that it was a very good mix of projects indeed.

Alex Johnstone and I both left very much enthused by what we had seen but—this is important—there was clearly a lack of people who wanted to step forward and provide the administrative leadership that is necessary to make that infrastructure of grass-roots volunteers work. There is a clear role for organisations such as YouthLink that operate at national level and which can think about how we do that sort of thing.

In the town of Buckie in my constituency we have what is probably Scotland’s biggest Boys Brigade group, with 250 members, so it is not just the boy scouts that are doing well in the north-east.

YouthLink also organises its own interventions, in particular among those who are in areas of significant disadvantage, and—as the inspection report confirms—it does well.

When I was a youngster—I will not be alone in this—I wanted desperately to be an adult, but now that I am an adult I wish that I was a youngster again. There is not much chance of that happening. However, if YouthLink and other organisations can tap into adult experience—good and bad, as it will inevitably be—to aid today’s youngsters to make a successful transition to adulthood, it will absolutely deserve all the plaudits that we can give it.

George Adam talked about engaging young people in community decision making and Kezia Dugdale talked about civic activism. I will give a small example of something that happened in the little village of Maud, which was in my constituency for the best part of 10 years, until the boundary change took it out. A “planning for real” exercise on how the village would be regenerated was structured in order to allow eight-year-olds whom I saw there to go up to stick on a map of the village little Post-it notes with the things that they thought could happen. Old people—people who would not speak at a public meeting in a month of Sundays—were also able to participate. We can often learn ways to do things that we can take to others, especially to help the young. That is very important because, after all, today’s youngsters will decide how I am looked after in my dotage, which some say is coming rather more rapidly than I would wish.


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