Volunteering (Edinburgh and the Lothians)

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:29 pm on 7th December 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 5:29 pm, 7th December 2006

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-5188, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on Edinburgh's volunteers: a century of change. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the launch of "Edinburgh's Volunteers: A Century of Change", an exhibition which celebrates the history of volunteers in Edinburgh and the Lothians and outlines the development of volunteering in this area over the centuries; considers that all MSPs should visit the exhibition, which is located at the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile until 3 March 2007 and includes photographs, objects and oral histories about volunteers; recognises the collaboration of the Living Memory Association and the Volunteer Centre Edinburgh to provide tremendous assistance in the creation of this exhibition, and further notes the importance of volunteer contributions to enriching the lives of the people of Edinburgh and the Lothians over the last century.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 5:32 pm, 7th December 2006

The idea for the exhibition, Edinburgh's volunteers: a century of change, came from the Living Memory Association and the volunteer centre in Edinburgh. I thank the 40 volunteers who helped by assembling the exhibition and recording their experiences and memories of volunteering. Their personal mementos, photographs, membership badges and minutes of meetings are all fascinating records of the history of volunteering in Edinburgh and the Lothians. I thank my intern, Chris Bradt from America, who, by volunteering for me, helped to draft the motion and put together the background information for the debate.

The ages of the people who helped to put together the exhibition ranged from 12 to 86. Their contributions included fighting for the International Brigade; helping with the girl guides, Boys Brigade and football teams; working at the city farm; helping at local museums; helping with health-related projects; carrying out research; and doing counselling work. There was also a volunteer who worked as a peace and humanitarian volunteer in Palestine and Iraq. A tremendous range of volunteering was covered.

The exhibition gives us a chance to record our thanks for the contributions of those individuals; celebrate the difference that they have made in their communities; welcome the contribution of other members of the public in Edinburgh and the Lothians; and reflect on the changing context of volunteering.

The exhibition highlights the fact that social problems, expectations and ideas about what is acceptable change over time. However, the ethos of people helping other people and giving of their time remains a constant.

Edinburgh is a fascinating city. We experienced major social change as the move from the country to the town led to the expansion of the heart of the city and the joining up of our urban villages. Much of the philanthropic work in those days was generated by the churches, as religion was seen as an antidote to people's poor health and living conditions and the social problems of drunkenness, prostitution and crime, which were prevalent at the time.

The Boys' Brigade was started in Edinburgh. The minutes of its first committee meeting at the mission hall in Leith record that three activities would be vetoed: boxing, dancing and character dressing. I do not know what character dressing was at that time, but the reference is fascinating.

There was a different response in the city centre. When I was carrying out research for the debate, I discovered that Heart of Midlothian Football Club was formed from a dancing club at the corner of Dumbiedykes Road and Holyrood Road, which is just around the corner from the Parliament. Hearts' website states:

"The lads from the dance club ... decided to play football and ... a policeman directed the lads from the Tron Kirk to the Meadows, where he thought their energies could be put to better use kicking a ball rather than hanging around the streets."

Some things do not change.

In the 19th century, Edinburgh was full of church-inspired and church-organised activities. There were evening meetings, orchestras, choirs and the temperance movement, which had a junior section—that is another reminder of difficulties that have not disappeared. During a visit by people from St Patrick's church to the Scottish Parliament a fortnight ago, I was reminded that Hibs—I am being fair—were formed by the church to provide healthy physical activity for young boys. Much of what we take for granted in Edinburgh has a long history.

The focus had shifted by the beginning of the 20th century. The state was seen as having a role in providing for people who were living in impoverished conditions. Over time, the state has addressed many of the social inequalities that the early volunteering organisations and charities were set up to address.

Throughout the 20th century, a wonderful range of voluntary organisations has joined churches in the city to help the diverse and changing range of groups that need our help. One of the most powerful parts of the exhibition shows the contribution that volunteers who went abroad to help have made. The photographs of Edinburgh volunteers who served in the International Brigade bring history alive. It was fitting that the exhibition was opened by Steve Fullarton, who was a serving member of the International Brigade.

Work has continued in the aftermath of last year's make poverty history coalition. Members of all parties have been involved in the fair trade, aid and trade justice movements. Across the city, there has been an incredible expression of support for the work that has been done. Schools, churches, theatres and businesses have worked with the voluntary sector to make a difference to some of the most impoverished people in the world.

One exhibit records the work of humanitarian volunteers in Palestine. Those people do not want just to draw political attention to the plight of the Palestinians, important though that is. Their work is also aimed at making us think about the practical assistance that we can provide. Palestinian goods, such as embroidered goods, ceramics, carvings and olive oil, are sold at Hadeel in my constituency. Such goods bring real economic benefits to communities that live in desperate circumstances. The new Polish and other migrants who have come to the city are also developing and adding to our traditions of volunteering and providing cultural bridges to well-established local communities. I have been told by charities that they are bolstering their work.

Volunteering work has many faces. In the past few months, I have been with volunteers at the Barnardo's shop in Gorgie, some of whom have served in that shop for 25 years. I have worked with volunteers who give out advice on tackling fuel poverty in the Community Service Volunteers Scotland, Energy Action Scotland and ExxonMobil project, and I am sure that colleagues are aware of the thousands of parents who run amateur football clubs in the city. Regardless of the weather, those parents sacrifice their Saturday and Sunday mornings so that their boys and girls can play safely. A huge amount of work is being done.

As we approach Christmas, it is right that attention will focus on people who are homeless or alone. Many groups do a huge amount to help such people. The positive experiences that volunteering can bring to people who get involved in it should be highlighted. I have met people who have been involved in the Cyrenians FareShare project who started out as clients for the Cyrenians and became volunteers; some of them have moved into employment. Their confidence and pride in their achievements are incredible and should be valued.

I want to say something about the wider political challenges. This week, the excellent "Inspiring Volunteering—A Volunteering Strategy for Edinburgh" was published. I recommend it to everyone. It is the result of work by the public sector and volunteering and community organisations. In responding to the debate, I would like the minister to reflect on ensuring that the voluntary sector is sufficiently well funded to co-ordinate the army of volunteers in Edinburgh—there has been an army of volunteers here over the past 100 years. All the voluntary groups and organisations with which I work constantly chase resources. Let us see whether we can do more to help them out. Local authorities, for example, now have three-year funding horizons. Why do not they pass such financial certainty to all our voluntary organisations? Doing so would help. Realistic funding with full cost recovery would also help so that voluntary organisations can develop innovative projects and we can ensure that good projects are kept going.

I finish by saying something about project Scotland, which is a great project that we should be doing more to support. I am proud that the Canongate youth project was one of the first groups to work with project Scotland, and I have seen how valuable those volunteers are. Let us, in the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive, give a lead by supporting staff to become active in volunteering. With unemployment in Edinburgh at a record low of 2.4 per cent, we need to find ways to enable people who are in employment to become involved and to play their part in volunteering.

I hope that colleagues will make their way to the fascinating exhibition that is just up the road and take some time out of their busy schedules to celebrate and enjoy the wonderful contribution that volunteers have made to Edinburgh and the Lothians over the past century.

Photo of Mike Pringle Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat 5:40 pm, 7th December 2006

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing the debate. We do not say enough in this Parliament about the key role that volunteers play in the life of our nation. I am particularly pleased that volunteers in Edinburgh have been singled out in the motion.

Throughout Scotland, around 500,000 people volunteer their time in some way. Many of the services that we take for granted would not run without the unpaid support of volunteers. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute comes to mind, as well as the facilities in many hospitals that are run by the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. Across our constituencies, there are numerous youth clubs, scout and guide groups and sports clubs that are all run by volunteers. That does not include all those who work far and above the hours that their paid work requires of them. Volunteers not only provide a vital service to many people, but are vital to our economy.

I want to highlight one aspect of volunteering that is making a real difference in Edinburgh South. Over the past few years, we have heard a lot of talk in the chamber about antisocial behaviour, and we have passed laws aimed at eradicating that problem. That is right and proper, but the best answer to antisocial behaviour is to prevent children from getting into a culture of behaviour that many find antisocial.

That is where the great volunteers of the bfriends project come in. They are part of Children 1st, the national children's charity that used to be called the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children—which had the rather long acronym, RSSPCC. Currently, bfriends in south Edinburgh has 20 volunteers who are matched up to 20 young people. They meet up with those young people at least once a week to provide support and friendship. The volunteers are of all ages, ranging from 16 to 80, and they get involved for lots of different reasons. They want to build up their curriculum vitae, to get involved in their community, to do something totally different in their spare time, or just to help.

The volunteers can have a huge impact on those vulnerable children and young people, often providing the only stable and constant influence in their lives. They teach them respect and spend time with them, thus diverting them from many of the triggers that can lead to a pathway to antisocial behaviour. Without the volunteers, there would simply be no bfriends support for those young people, who often have chaotic and difficult home lives or lack self-confidence. Sometimes, the young people want a volunteer to talk to about their worries; sometimes, they just want some time out from home or to have someone for themselves.

I will highlight the importance of the bfriends project by telling the story of Neil—that is not his real name. He is 11 and his mother and grandmother, who looked after him, both died recently. His father has a new family and wants nothing to do with him. Neil has lived in a children's home, but has finally been fostered. His behaviour is challenging, and there is a real risk that he might be excluded from school. Each week, a bfriends volunteer takes Neil to the cinema, goes bowling with him, takes him to the swimming pool or teaches him to bake a cake. He really enjoys that time, and it gives his foster parents some time out. The befriender is a stable influence in Neil's life. They do not have to do it, but the befriender is now involved in meetings to plan for Neil's future.

That, in a nutshell, is the value of volunteers. They give of themselves so that others can have hope for the future. We salute them today and pay tribute to them. I hope that this century will be as productive for volunteers as the previous century was.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 5:44 pm, 7th December 2006

I, too, pay tribute to Sarah Boyack not simply for lodging an important motion for debate but for making an excellent speech. I was taken by many of her comments. We have life's great circle and the fact that there never seems to be anything new. As she said, Scots have contributed to volunteering not simply at home, but abroad. That minded me that I was recently in Singapore and that it was not simply in Edinburgh that the Boys Brigade was formed by Scots. We might be ashamed of things in the British empire and Scotland's contribution to it, but we should be proud that we founded the Boys Brigade in Singapore, where I understand it lives on. Sarah Boyack's comments about the founding of Hearts and Hibs football clubs lead on to present problems with youth behaviour, on which Mike Pringle commented.

It is important to recognise volunteering—that is why Sarah Boyack lodged the motion. For many good reasons, the Parliament has made it harder to volunteer. We have—correctly—legislated on some matters. In some instances, there is no alternative to that. Dennis Canavan and the First Minister have commented on that. Having recognised why we legislated and the consequences of that, we must take opportunities for review when we have to—the First Minister mentioned that. We must recognise the importance of volunteering and take time to pay tribute to and thank volunteers. We are occasionally remiss in doing that and that is why Sarah Boyack's motion and speech are welcome.

Volunteering is part of our history. Yesterday, we debated trade unions. We must acknowledge that Edinburgh as a society has been built not only by businesses, soldiers or the labour movement and the trade unions, but by ordinary people. They might not have done acts of fantastic work such as building the castle, but they have done acts of great kindness that have been important to making the city and providing its fabric. What matters is not just great acts, but little individual bits that come together to make the city and to make it a community. That is the importance of volunteering—it is part of the basis of the community.

Sarah Boyack made the point that the world is much more complicated. The issue is not simply about always thanking people for volunteering; we must acknowledge that in the modern world, volunteering is much more complicated, not simply because of disclosure, but because of the 24/7 society in which we operate. In the past, people left the factory at 4 o'clock and took the boys club. Now, they may work split shifts or continental shifts. If they are not on continental shifts, they may be looking after the children. People who have separated from a spouse may see the children at the weekend. That has had a major impact on boys clubs and many clubs that involve girls. We must always acknowledge that life is much more complicated. The book called "Bowling Alone"—I do not remember its full title—comments on that. We must remember other aspects of a much more atomised society.

I will not get into an inappropriate political debate, but we must remember that there is such a thing as society. We are members of the human race. Whether we come together in a boys club, a church or a chapel, we do that because we believe that a better way to operate exists.

For politicians, it is easy to comment on people who have transgressed against society—I even had to leave earlier debates to comment on criminals and such matters. However, we are loth to take time to comment on people who have contributed substantially. That is a perverse rule of politics. When we have the opportunity to say thank you and well done and to say, "You have made the city as much as the politicians or the great and the good have," we should take it. I therefore feel privileged to have participated in the debate.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 5:49 pm, 7th December 2006

I, too, congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing the debate. In my many years as a member of the City of Edinburgh Council and then as an MSP in West Lothian, I have met many people throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians who have given of their time and volunteered. As many others have said, those people are unassuming. They do what they do because they enjoy it and see some benefit from it. They ask for no reward, but it is important to take time occasionally to recognise the work that they do daily, weekly and monthly.

Just last Friday, I had the pleasure of presenting millennium volunteer certificates to two young girls in the Bathgate area. We are constantly faced with a negative presentation of young people, and we only ever hear about young people when there are difficulties. However, there are many young people in all our communities who give of their time, just as older people do, and it is important that we recognise that. As Kenny MacAskill said, without them and their contribution to the community, many things would not happen.

Some older people have spent almost a lifetime giving of their time. It is not always easy. People have other responsibilities, including work, caring and the sheer daily grind. It is difficult to find time, but some people have done it for years on end.

The Home Aid organisation is located in Bathgate. Although it has paid employees, it could not be sustained if it were not for the fact that people give of their time to come and help with the recycling initiative there. It is important that such organisations are there.

Volunteers themselves benefit from what they do, as we accept. They develop confidence and skills that they might not have had previously, and they are generally made to feel better about themselves. We have to remember that their contribution to the community is immense. Without them, we would not have many things that we do have.

I will mention another award that I presented last week, to the Volunteer Centre West Lothian. It was the first centre in Scotland to be recognised through gaining the investing in volunteers quality standard. Investing in volunteers has been designed to ensure that an organisation's volunteers receive the best possible management support and that organisations receive maximum benefit from volunteers' contributions. The standard is based on four areas of volunteer management: planning for volunteer involvement, recruiting volunteers, selecting and matching volunteers and supporting and retaining volunteers. Without that support, some volunteers would find it quite difficult to do the great work that they do.

I congratulate the Volunteer Centre West Lothian on gaining the award. Jim Gallagher and his team are paid employees, but those on the centre's board are not; they are volunteers themselves. It is thanks to the support and encouragement that they provide to the volunteers that we have such an army of volunteers in West Lothian. It is important to recognise that.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 5:52 pm, 7th December 2006

I warmly welcome Sarah Boyack's motion. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak about an essential element of our community: our volunteers. Perhaps I should mention an interest: I am chairman of the Edinburgh support group of Hope and Homes for Children, a charity that helps orphans in Africa and eastern Europe. Volunteers are invaluable to that charity, which helps some of the world's most desperate children.

There is not one MSP who does not wish to make a difference. I hope that my colleagues will celebrate the outstanding examples of Edinburgh's volunteers and visit the exhibition. I attended its opening with Sarah Boyack. It was a splendid Edinburgh occasion. The exhibition includes photographs, displays, objects and oral histories about Edinburgh's volunteers over the years. It is thanks to the collaboration of the Living Memory Association and Volunteer Centre Edinburgh that the exhibition has been made possible. It is a great tribute to our volunteers, and I hope that it will encourage and inspire others to follow their impressive example.

Whether for a few hours a year, monthly, weekly or daily, all those who volunteer play an important role. The point was highlighted by William James, a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher, who once said:

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

Edinburgh's volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past century. If it was not for all those men, women and children who have given up their time to help others, we would most likely be living in a very different society.

I recently volunteered for a morning as part of make a difference day. I worked at the Barnardo's shop in Stockbridge. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and sold a selection of items on behalf of Barnardo's. I do not know whether Sarah Boyack remembers the American advertisement showing Richard Nixon, which I think carried the slogan, "Would you buy a second-hand car from this man?" All I can say is that I sold a second-hand suit to a very senior official from Falkirk, which proves that, whatever people might think of politicians, volunteers are held in high regard. I am very glad to have volunteered during that weekend, and I believe that the efforts of the volunteers were not in vain.

It is hard in these few words to do justice to volunteers, who work selflessly and with great dedication. At the very least, we who are fortunate enough to be in the Scottish Parliament can with admiration and pride recognise their tremendous efforts and collective hard work over the past 100 years. After all, as has been said before, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 5:55 pm, 7th December 2006

I apologise in advance for having to leave immediately after my speech, but more than 100 guests are waiting for me downstairs at a Children 1 st reception to honour Margaret McKay.

Although I was one of the first members of Community Service Volunteers' retired and senior volunteer programme, my speech is mainly about young people. On Monday, I had the privilege of attending the YoungEdinburgh awards ceremony. This year's programme has been hugely successful: 1,600 young people have been nominated for awards. I pay tribute to the City of Edinburgh Council's youth services department and the Edinburgh Evening News for sponsoring the event. I had the privilege of giving the environment prize to a group of young people from Broomhouse who had absolutely transformed a piece of waste land into a really attractive children's playground by clearing away the glass and rubble and then encouraging people to suggest ideas for the space.

A little while ago, as rector of Aberdeen University, I addressed the organisation Inspire. As a result of that meeting, I want to raise with the minister the issue of voluntary organisations' inability to recover their full costs, which places a huge strain on them as they struggle to maintain the quality of their services. Third sector organisations have struggled to secure funding for their overhead costs, which has led to underinvestment in management, leadership, external and internal infrastructure, strategic development and governance. The difficulty has been exacerbated by a trend on the part of the sector's funders towards funding the direct costs of projects instead of contributing also to overheads or core funding. The Executive knows about this problem; I am simply reminding the minister that more needs to be done to help these organisations.

I want to finish with a few more tributes. I realise that this debate is about volunteering in Edinburgh, but I was very impressed to learn that, this year, students at Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College have raised £50,000 and distributed the money to more than 70 charities. I also want to mention a group of people from Edinburgh who studied at Newcastle University. They have been encouraging students in Newcastle to come up and run the Edinburgh marathon, raising more than £20,000 for a charity that supports an orphanage in India. Moreover, CSV, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Scotland and the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme have been enormously successful, particularly in Edinburgh, in getting young people to volunteer. After all, it is good for them; it gives them a sense of achievement, self-confidence and self-worth.

Like Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, I volunteered on make a difference day and worked in Barnardo's little bookshop on Clerk Street. I am afraid that I probably bought more books than I sold, but I think that the organisation still did well out of my contribution.

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing this debate. It is lovely for us all to have an opportunity to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of volunteers throughout Scotland, particularly those in Edinburgh.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:59 pm, 7th December 2006

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing a debate on an excellent subject.

The first volunteers were probably military people. I know that Sir Walter Scott enjoyed galloping about as a cavalryman to prevent Napoleon's invasions—which, of course, never happened. A famous event in the later 19th century was the wet review, at which thousands of gorgeously dressed volunteers marched about in a thorough Edinburgh downpour.

The army of hospital people organised by Elsie Inglis were more effectual volunteers. Based in Edinburgh, their activities emerged from the city's medical and women's suffrage movements. There should be a memorial to what they did, so that we remember it more than we do at the moment.

In a more modest way, my mother was a volunteer—she made some lifelong friends from her time as a fire watcher during the war. She and her fellow volunteers stayed up all night looking out for German bombers, in case they should bomb and start fires. Fortunately, that did not happen very often.

Dancing has been mentioned. Yesterday I presided at the annual general meeting of 6VT, which is the title of Edinburgh City Youth Cafe. Usually, people stay away from AGMs, but 6VT's was crowded out, largely because it had an exhibition of breakdancing. As well as just about destroying the youth cafe's floor, it attracts in huge numbers of boys and girls, some of whom have gone to foreign countries to demonstrate their breakdancing. Should any organisation want to attract people to its AGM, it should get in touch with 6VT and it will provide some breakdancers.

There is a serious side to my mentioning the youth cafe in that, like many other organisations, it is permanently struggling for money. Although its turnaround project has been extremely successful in helping young people, who started off in the wrong way by getting into trouble at school and with the police, to sort themselves out, it is about to stop getting funding. The cafe has three drop-in open nights a week, which are hugely successful in attracting people—ethnic minority young people, in particular, find it congenial—but it is not able to fund them properly.

Sarah Boyack mentioned funding. We have still not cracked the business of providing organisations with continued funding. We go in for short-term project funding. Another danger is looming in the form of the vetting and barring bill. Careful thought needs to be given to ensure that well-intentioned measures do not cause even more trouble to volunteers, who are already diminishing in number.

Whether by being a sports coach, showing people round a museum or, as someone else mentioned, teaching a young person to cook—I could certainly do with a volunteer to teach me how to cook—the attraction of volunteering lies in sharing enthusiasms, either on a one-to-one basis or with a group. Such activity is not only highly satisfactory to the person who does it, but it does a huge amount of good for society. Long may volunteers exist, but we must fund them and learn that we should not strangle them with red tape.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green 6:03 pm, 7th December 2006

I join other members in congratulating Sarah Boyack on securing the debate.

I commend the Volunteer Centre Edinburgh and its partners for the launch of "Inspiring Volunteering: A Volunteering Strategy for Edinburgh", which is an extremely impressive document. The fact that it contains a comprehensive, 26-point action plan means that it goes beyond offering a vision of how it would like the world to be and provides a concrete strategy for achieving a better situation for volunteers.

As we have heard, volunteers make a massive contribution to all aspects of the life of the city of Edinburgh. They have a hugely positive impact in enhancing the quality of people's existence. I was struck by the strategy document's estimate that volunteers contribute at least £60 million annually to Edinburgh. That is a quantification of just the monetary benefits, which are achieved as a result of people doing activities such as working in a shop to raise money for charity, which Lord James Douglas-Hamilton got involved in. Beyond that, however, there is the huge impact on quality of life, which cannot be quantified in monetary terms. That is a massive change, particularly for socially excluded people working as volunteers and receiving support from volunteers.

The Scottish Executive has recognised the contribution that volunteers make. The national volunteering strategy, which was published in 2004, stated that

"Action to support volunteering is action to tackle poverty and disadvantage" and that

"Action to support volunteering is action to support community activity and build respect for others."

That is a welcome statement but, as we have heard in this debate, it needs to be matched with real support—particularly financial support. The rules of the game must be changed so that voluntary organisations get that security of funding and, in particular, get the full cost of recovery that Sarah Boyack and Robin Harper talked about.

We all know that that is the good stuff about volunteering. I am also pleased that there is a recognition in the strategy of the importance of managing the volunteer experience. The strategy says that most volunteering is well managed and supported but that, for some, the volunteering experience is not as good as it could be. There is a particular emphasis in the strategy on the need to professionalise support for volunteers. Volunteer support is not easy to do well. Maximising the benefit for volunteers takes professionalism. That is how we can get the best out of volunteering. It is important to recognise that volunteering is not necessarily a cheap option. It can deliver huge benefits, but there needs to be proper support, financial support and management.

In a previous career, I worked on a project that was involved in getting more young people—young men in particular—to become involved in volunteering. I was surprised to learn that the group of young men that is least involved in volunteering is made up not of those from disadvantaged backgrounds but of those who have jobs and are busy with a range of other activities. Those are the people on whom we have to focus. Sarah Boyack mentioned sports clubs and it is true to say that that group of people are involved in sports clubs. However, they do not regard that as volunteering, because they see volunteering as working in a charity bookshop or something like that. Their activities need to be recognised as volunteering.

Alongside the investing in volunteers award that Mary Mulligan talked about, which the Volunteer Centre West Lothian has done well to achieve, there is a parallel award for employers. We should focus on how we can encourage Edinburgh's big employers to maximise the support that they give their staff to get involved in the community. I know that that is reflected in the strategy.

I congratulate the Volunteer Centre Edinburgh on achieving such a comprehensive vision of the future.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 6:08 pm, 7th December 2006

I join with others in congratulating Sarah Boyack on an excellent choice of subject for debate. It provides a good combination of history and issues that are very much of the moment. I must also offer my congratulations to the Living Memory Association and the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre on an excellent exhibition, which I enjoyed very much when I saw it this week.

One comment in the visitors book said:

"You can hear the voices coming off the walls".

I certainly agree with that. The photographs, the artefacts on display and the stories of volunteering through the ages, told mostly in the volunteers' own words, are exceedingly evocative. Another visitor had added:

"Great to see the changes in the Scottish Way of Life".

The exhibition certainly highlights the changes that there have been in volunteering. However, I was also struck by the similarities. For example, the reasons for volunteering seem to have remained fairly constant over the years: to do good for others; to deliver mutual aid; to participate; and to be part of a movement or a community.

Of course, many people initially volunteer for the simple reason that they have been asked to do so. I was struck by the story of Sheina Wardlaw who, back in 1953, was asked by a friend to help out with the cubs one night a week and continued to volunteer for over 40 years.

Today, being asked by a friend is still the main way in which people get involved in volunteering. I would recommend to all voluntary organisations the Volunteer Development Scotland leaflet "20 top Tips for Asking", which of course gives top tips on how to use that most traditional method of recruitment to maximum effect. For example, it suggests using word of mouth to increase the number of potential volunteers that can be appealed to and outlines ways of finding routes into different age groups, those with disabilities and different ethnic groups.

We are proud that people from many different countries have chosen to work, study and often make a home in Scotland. That is, among other things, a huge opportunity for the voluntary sector. Those who are settling in Scotland appear keen to give something to their new communities. In Edinburgh, for example, one in five new volunteers is from European Union accession countries, particularly Poland.

So what has changed? I wonder whether members were struck by how little government was mentioned in the exhibition. Given the success story that is so well illustrated in the exhibition, what, we might ask, is the Executive's role? In the past, the voluntary sector has done a great job alongside us, but quite often without us. When I think about the possibilities for change, and of the benefits for individuals and communities, for service delivery, for personal development, and for training that we can achieve by working together, I get very excited.

Such a change does not come from government but from working together with voluntary organisations, social enterprise and the social economy—what we are increasingly calling the third sector. As I said at our first—and, may I say, very successful—third sector summit just two days ago, I use the word "third" not to suggest that there is a pecking order of first, second and third but to mean that the sector is a third force for action, alongside and fully comparable to the public and private sectors.

I want to mention two key documents: the Scottish Executive's "Volunteering Strategy" and "A Vision for the Voluntary Sector", which is rightly subtitled "The Next Phase of Our Relationship". Before I talk about the Executive's volunteering strategy, I also congratulate those who are involved in producing "Inspiring Volunteering: A Volunteering Strategy for Edinburgh", which has just come out.

With the Executive's volunteering strategy, we want to open up the benefits of volunteering to all and to create a Scotland where everyone who wants to volunteer can do so readily in a high-quality volunteering placement where the volunteer gives something, but also gains. Volunteering has always provided a chance to socialise, an increased sense of self-worth, and a sense of belonging. That is still true today, but increasingly we see properly developed and resourced volunteering opportunities as a way of gaining skills and as a way into work or further training or education.

"A Vision for the Voluntary Sector" sets out the roles that we recognise that the sector performs in Scottish life: it is a service delivery partner; it contributes to building strong communities; it is an advocate and develops policy thinking; and it is an agent of change. I look forward to working in full and equal partnership to support those roles. The sector has already achieved a great deal and by working together I think that we can achieve much more.

A particular focus of the speeches tonight has been on young people. Mary Mulligan talked about young people giving of their time to be volunteers, whereas several other members talked about people working with young people. Sarah Boyack very even-handedly talked about the origins of both Hearts and Hibs—people working with young people more than 100 years ago. Mike Pringle talked about bfriends, a project in his constituency in which people of various ages work with young people in a one-to-one relationship. Many of the projects mentioned are examples of the intergenerational work that we are so keen to support and that will feature in the forthcoming strategy for a Scotland with an aging population.

I have an example of people working with young people. On Monday night, I presented a trophy to the Pilton youth and children's project, which is in a league for various youth teams in the greater Pilton area. I was struck by the many people working as volunteers with those groups either on their specific activities or in the management groups.

It would be wrong not to mention other volunteers, particularly this week when we had a magnificent reception in Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday night for many hundreds of the women throughout Scotland who give of their time to work with women's aid groups, rape crisis groups and others. We were saying thank you to as many of them as we could.

We should not forget Robin Harper's reference to the retired and senior volunteers programme. Volunteering for older people will feature strongly in the forthcoming strategy.

Sarah Boyack mentioned Project Scotland, which has been hugely successful in building its brand and raising awareness of volunteering and which has provided more than 800 young people with high-quality volunteering placements. Speaking for the Labour Party, the First Minister pledged that we would have a commitment to expand Project Scotland in the manifesto for the next parliamentary elections.

Sarah Boyack, Robin Harper, Donald Gorrie and Mark Ballard all talked about funding. We are fully committed to the principle and practice of full cost recovery. Guidelines for funding will be published shortly and will include a presumption of three-year funding. I made that clear at the third sector summit this week.

In conclusion, I return to the exhibition. I was struck by one more thing that does not seem to have changed in the past 100 years—the fact that some volunteers do not think that they do volunteering. For example, Anne Cain, who organised older people's lunches in Leith and harangued her shop customers to leave small change in order to throw a party, thought that she was just "helping out". She certainly did not think that she was doing anything extraordinary. We recognise that that continues to this day. People who do good in our society do not much like the do-gooding label. In our you won't believe what you can do! campaign, we show that volunteering is not about selfless sacrifice or superhuman efforts—we know terms of that sort make volunteers or potential volunteers curl up into a ball of embarrassment.

However, much as many may dislike it, today I would like to say on the record that volunteers are doing good. Without their time and skills and effort, voluntarily given, our communities, our country and many individuals would be a lot worse off. In the words of Harriet Eadie, director of the Volunteer Centre Edinburgh,

"We are a much richer society if we help each other".

I am happy to support the motion and urge all members to visit "A Century of Change" at the earliest opportunity.

Meeting closed at 18:16.