We were delighted to welcome Andrew Sharkey to our meeting this evening who gave a most interesting talk on “Scouting, then and now”. He is the Chief Commissioner of Scouts Scotland and leads and manages volunteers across Scotland, supporting the provision of Scouting to thousands of young people.
Andrew advised he is passionate about Scouting especially assisting and enabling volunteers to help youngsters develop skills for life. Over the years, he has held various roles working mainly with the Venture Scout and, more recently, the Explorer Scout sections. He believes in the importance of maintaining a role in the local area and was the Group Scout Leader in his local group where his sons are both members and his wife is a Cub Leader. He continues to be the local Explorer Scout Leader and an active member of the Clyde Region Training Team.
Giving an overview, Andrew advised that the Scouts were formed in 1907 and now have over 55 million members worldwide, including 390,000 in the UK of which over 50,000 are in Scotland. He reflected on some of the main changes in the organisation, such as a more modern uniform and that there was no longer a need to take a promise to God, making the Scouts open to youngsters of any faith or none. A more substantial change was the introduction of girls into the movement, a few older ones in 1976 and all age groups in 2007 with girls now making up approximately 40% of the Scottish membership.
As someone who has a huge interest in International Scouting, he has attended four World Scout Jamborees, led the UK contingent of over 6,000 to the European Jamboree in 2005 and was part of the UK Management team for the World Scout Moot, for those aged 18 - 25, in Iceland in 2017. However, one of his favourite camps is here in Perthshire at Blair Atholl which he attends every two years, but unfortunately not this year due to the pandemic.
In summing up, Andrew stressed he believed that most youngsters were good people and added that it was estimated that during the current lockdown, Scouts had carried out over 10,000 acts of kindness throughout the UK.
Andrew was a suitably appropriate guest as, of course, President Chris is also heavily involved in the Scouts holding, or has held, various roles including Scout Leader, Deputy District Commissioner for Perth & Kinross and District Commissioner for East Central Scotland.