Men’s Sheds Movement

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th February 2021.

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Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-23991, in the name of Maurice Corry, on Scotland’s men’s sheds movement. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. Members who wish to speak in the debate should type R in the chat box now.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the role of the Men’s Sheds Movement in encouraging health and wellbeing; understands that since 2013, Men’s Sheds have provided the opportunity to learn new skills through a variety of activities and offers a social, safe and welcoming space to meet people and find information on local projects within the community, including those in the West of Scotland; notes with regret the impact of COVID-19 on the Men’s Sheds Movement, which has led to the temporary closure of all Men’s Sheds in keeping with lockdown restrictions, amid a sharp increase in the number of people experiencing feelings of loneliness and social isolation; appreciates that despite the challenges this has presented, the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association has continued its work to assist and support men’s shedders to forge social connections virtually and in April 2020 welcomed Sir Harry Burns as its new patron to promote and represent the movement; welcomes the £30,000 funding from the Scottish Government to help those Sheds whose fundraising has been most severely affected by the pandemic, and notes calls for all MSPs to share in celebrating the work of Scottish Men’s Sheds and to continue to protect its place in communities through this pandemic and for many years to come.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

I am delighted to bring the motion for debate today. Scotland’s men’s sheds movement has become an ever-important fixture across our local communities. Each shed is living proof that every person is of value and has something to contribute.

The movement could not have developed as it has without the work of the Scottish Men’s Shed Association. The SMSA has over 180 registered men’s sheds that are either up and running or in development, spread across all 32 council areas. The association, along with Age Scotland and other partners, has long raised awareness of why those groups deserve our full attention. Run completely by volunteers, men’s sheds are open, welcoming places for men to put their capabilities to practical use by learning and sharing new skills, which can be as wide ranging as woodworking, furniture repair, gardening and cookery. More than that, these spaces provide those who attend, who are known as shedders, the opportunity for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship and camaraderie.

My region of West Scotland is privileged to have such sheds at the heart of its communities. There is the amazing work of the Clydebank men’s shed and the Saltcoats men’s shed, which I have visited in recent months. Both have done well in a recent competition. There is also the Garnock valley men’s shed in Kilbirnie. I was particularly impressed with some veterans who had joined the one in Kilbirnie, one of whom said that, with the help of his colleagues, he had managed to turn his life around.

Free from any obligations or expectations, members have a real sense of ownership of their sheds, each of which is shaped by their own interests and accomplishments. That ethos underpins the entire movement and points to why it is so clearly successful. That is especially the case from a health and wellbeing perspective. An Age Scotland study on the so-called “shed effect” showed that many shedders have found renewed purpose in their lives through their involvement, which they feel has had a direct and positive impact on their mental and physical health. For some, their local shed is a way to overcome loneliness or mental ill health in a place where they feel at home. For others, it is a valuable way to use their time in retirement or a welcome distraction from life’s burdens.

The local, asset-based voluntary model of the men’s sheds movement is key to how it impacts people’s lives. A ground-breaking study by Glasgow Caledonian University recently captured that by highlighting that the key value of men’s sheds—that they are run by men, for men—means that formalising or pigeonholing men’s sheds into a healthcare role is not the answer. Instead of being overburdened, shedders, who already face challenges, deserve to be equipped with greater, long-term financial support to further galvanise them to do what they already do well: engage men in their own health management entirely on an informal and voluntary basis.

The Scottish Men’s Shed Association is passionate about its aim of attracting groups who can be more hidden or harder to reach. In that regard, its recent work to forge links with veterans—which is beginning to take place in co-operation with the veterans of the unforgotten forces consortium—will, I am sure, be a valuable way for ex-service personnel to reintegrate into their communities. I sincerely look forward to seeing the outcome of that work.

The role of men’s sheds in improving health and wellbeing means that they have, over time, become an important part of their community fabric. As well as offering a space in which to signpost local services and information, shedders make a tangible difference to community life, whether through local tree planting, fundraisers for local charities or the creation of a community garden. Their warm and vibrant involvement, which emanates inclusivity, is a prime example of grass-roots community empowerment at its best.

As so many community organisations have, men’s sheds have felt the impact of Covid-19 keenly, and, in keeping with guidance, sheds continue to be closed through the lockdown. On-going pressures on fundraising and the acquisition of suitable premises have grown more prevalent, which has presented challenges for sheds in maintaining sustainability and resourcefulness. Therefore, the Scottish Government’s funding grant of £30,000 in response to those challenges is welcome, and I am sure it will go some way towards assisting groups.

With advice from the SMSA and Age Scotland, shedders have sought to stay connected, whether through phone calls, social media or buddy systems, and they have helped the more vulnerable in new and innovative ways. Some have collected shopping for those who are shielding, and some have helped with personal protective equipment production. Others have made bird tables and benches for the benefit of local care homes. Moreover, the Inverclyde men’s shed group, who were winners of the SMSA shed of the year 2020—well done to them—helped to organise a soup shed for local families and constructed street food larders for Belville Community Garden. As the chairman said, such small acts of kindness and markers of community resilience show that men’s sheds are certainly worthy of our appreciation.

The pandemic has emphasised what we already know to be true: men’s sheds are invaluable as a community-based organisation. They are vital in forging connections and enhancing men’s health and wellbeing. At the same time, the movement recasts our idea of ageing and later life, showing that positivity and opportunity know no bounds. Despite the additional stress that Covid-19 has placed on shedders, they have learned that nothing can be taken for granted, especially our connections with those around us.

Far from taking the movement for granted, it is for policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that men’s sheds are supported in the long term. As they and other community-based organisations come alongside older people as we emerge from the pandemic, I hope that tailored guidance will be forthcoming from the Scottish Government to assist them. They are a clear asset to our communities and a critical way of safeguarding wellbeing, and our response must reflect that.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I congratulate Maurice Corry on securing debating time. I am delighted to be speaking about the crucial role that men’s sheds play in communities across Scotland.

After a lifetime in full-time employment, retirement can be daunting for many. Without the daily routine and social circle that most jobs entail—or used to, pre-lockdown—newly retired men often face loneliness, social isolation and an overall sense of loss. That problem is exacerbated by the steady decline in community engagement across much of the western world in recent decades, which is exemplified by an aggregate loss in membership and number of volunteers in many of our civic organisations.

I therefore welcome the recent explosion in the number of men’s sheds in Scotland. The first Scottish men’s shed was set up in 2013; yet, only eight years later, 133 sheds are open, with 56 in development. Sheds not only provide a workshop space where their 2,499 members can work on projects, crafts or repairs; a growing amount of academic research suggests that they also significantly contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of users.

I have two men’s sheds in my constituency. The one in Kilbirnie covers the Garnock valley and the other covers Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston, which are known as the three toons. Last September, Inverclyde men’s shed won the Scottish men’s shed of the year award. Although I congratulate them on their win, Garnock valley men’s shed, which covers a much smaller local population, finished a very close second. Frankly, there should have been a steward’s inquiry.

Initially, when the Garnock valley group took over a derelict depot on the edge of Kilbirnie public park, there was no running water and no toilet, the roof leaked and they were on a temporary occupation licence. After its first public meeting, in November 2017, the group’s membership quickly grew to 80, and it diversified to offer a range of activities, with a music room, bike repairs and a dedicated scale-modelling room. Over the past three years, however, astonishing improvements have transformed the building in order to meet members’ needs and interests.

Unfortunately, the on-going pandemic has had a severe impact on Scotland’s men’s sheds movement, as Maurice Corry touched on. Like all other sheds across Scotland, the two in my constituency, which were thriving pre-pandemic, have now been locked down for almost a year, leaving some of the isolated men whom they used to cater for lacking support. Both sheds are run by volunteer trustees who now regularly use online activities to keep in touch with shedders. The club has an active group operating online and provides plenty of tutorials and opportunities to connect socially through video calls.

Shed representatives are particularly grateful for the donation of devices from Connecting Scotland. That has allowed some members with little internet knowledge to keep in touch with each other and, in one case, to make contact with relatives over Christmas. Unfortunately, for some men, social isolation extends to still not having internet access. The Garnock valley men’s shed believes that the mental health of some of its members has suffered considerably as a result.

The £30,000 funding from the Scottish Government to help those sheds whose fundraising has been most severely affected by the pandemic was warmly welcomed. There is little doubt, however, that the services of sheds will be in even greater demand post-Covid. I therefore agree with the SMSA that there is now an opportunity for the Scottish Government to invest further in men’s sheds not only through core funding but through backing the recruitment of development officers throughout Scotland.

Ultimately, further investment in Scotland’s men’s sheds would be an investment in the health and wellbeing of our people. The value of men’s sheds can best be summarised by a quote from the daughter of a stroke survivor who is now a member of the three towns men’s shed:

“You have given me back my dad and given him back his life.”

Once again, I thank Maurice Corry.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I am delighted to speak in the debate and I add my thanks to my colleague Maurice Corry for bringing it to the chamber and allowing us to discuss men’s sheds. Many members have, I am sure, visited men’s sheds in our communities. I had the pleasure of visiting the Govan Men’s Shed when we were still able to get out, pre-pandemic.

The debate is very timely, coming, as it does, on the back of yesterday’s debate on mental health. As we explored yesterday, mental health was in crisis even pre-pandemic. Across the country we had problems with poor mental health and, at that time, we were discussing how we could have parity between physical health and mental health. The pandemic has amplified that exponentially.

The third sector will be needed more than ever, post-pandemic. Statutory services are under extraordinary pressure at the moment and we will have to look first at how to maintain the third sector and, secondly, how we utilise it along with statutory services to tackle what, to my mind, will inevitably be the next pandemic—poor mental health.

The thing with men’s sheds is that they are very much targeted at men. We are, of course, man the hairy hunter, therefore we do not need any help, thank you very much. However, one of the key drivers of poor mental health is isolation; men have traditionally been very poor at asking for that kind of help.

A men’s shed creates a comfortable environment where an interest in something else, whether it be gardening, woodwork or whatever, opens up the opportunity to discuss more personal things. It allows the participants to create interaction and friendships—to which Kenny Gibson alluded—when, all of a sudden, through retirement such interaction has been removed. The men’s shed is that opening for interaction.

As I have often said, it is so important, throughout life, to have other interests—sport, art, music, drama, gardening, woodwork or whatever it happens to be. That allows—[

Interruption

.] Sorry?

I thought that I had an intervention there, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You did, but I do not think that it was intentional. Please carry on.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

As I said, it is important that we have access to outside interests, whatever they happen to be, that we can take with us throughout our lives. The men’s sheds movement allows that to happen.

I ask the cabinet secretary what the Scottish Government is going to do to ensure that those organisations are still here, post Covid. We know that the men’s sheds movement, like many parts of the third sector, is under extreme pressure at this time because of a lack of finance. As I said at the start of my speech, we need the third sector now more than ever. The men’s sheds movement will, I hope, continue to grow and will still be there post the pandemic.

I will be interested to hear from the cabinet secretary how the Scottish Government proposes to ensure that the third sector remains vibrant, and how provision can be integrated with statutory services in order to treat people who are experiencing poor mental health.

Once again, I thank my colleague Maurice Corry for bringing the debate to chamber.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I thank Maurice Corry for bringing this interesting debate to the chamber. I am very pleased to speak in it.

We all need company and companionship—that is very much part of the human condition. The past year has brought that home to us so vividly, as we have been unable to connect in person with friends and family. As has been said, the pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways, and loneliness and isolation are the cause of much of the distress that we have had to endure. We know that it is particularly hard for the older generation, who are cut off from their families and neighbours.

The importance of men’s sheds cannot be overemphasised. There are hundreds of men’s sheds throughout Scotland. The movement began in Australia in the 1980s, and the official description reads:

“A?men’s shed ?is a community-based, non-commercial organisation that is open to men.? Men’s sheds?provide a place where men can feel included and safe. The aim of?men’s sheds?is to improve the health and wellbeing of their members.”

I have two sheds in my constituency, in Kirkintilloch and Bearsden, and that is what they undoubtedly do. Having visited them both, I know how important they are for men to gather as part of a connected community. As soon as I walked in, I could feel the warmth and camaraderie in the shed, and—coming from a family that is completely devoid of any DIY competence—I was in awe of the skills in and ingenuity of the work that was taking place there.

A helpful briefing from Age Scotland tells us that 93 per cent of shedders felt at home in their shed; that 94 per cent of shedders had made good friends; that 76 per cent said that their physical health had improved; and that 79 per cent said that their mental health had improved. Men are renowned for not speaking about their emotions, which—as we know—can lead to problems. Samaritans Scotland tells us that, in Scotland, men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide, and that middle-aged men experience higher suicide rates than other groups. What is more, less well-off middle-aged men often do not get the support that they need. Many men do not see community-based support services as being relevant to them until they have reached a crisis point.

Men are clear about what they want from a support service: the opportunity to contribute, a feeling of inclusivity, the chance to work towards common goals, peer support and the feeling that they have shared experience with someone else. Initiatives such as men’s sheds can provide a supportive space that is consistent with all those things, and can help to support wellbeing and to reduce social isolation before someone reaches a point of crisis.

However, it is important to say that people do not have to be struggling with mental health problems to join or enjoy a men’s shed. Many members are retired, many have skills that they would still like to practice and many just want camaraderie or the banter that they experience when they are working. Men’s sheds are perfect for that, as I witnessed during my visits. Tools at the ready, kettle on and a never-ending supply of biscuits—what a great atmosphere they have.

During the pandemic, men’ sheds have, like every other such organisation, been unable to meet in person, but members have been keen to keep contact in virtual meetings—as we have heard from other members in the debate—to discuss how they are getting through this terrible time and to make plans for when they return.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend the concept of men’s sheds highly enough. All the information about joining locally is available online, so if any men out there are looking for a post-lockdown boost to enrich their lives, I say join up now. It could be the best decision you make.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

As other members have done, I thank

Maurice Corry for securing the debate.

Since arriving in Scotland, men’s sheds have been started up in many of our communities. We have heard about some of them from members. Men’s sheds played a very important role in the lives of the men who regularly attended them physically before Covid-19 forced their temporary closure. I know that I speak for all the participants in today’s debate when I say that I hope that they can safely reopen soon.

Many members have shared stories about the men’s sheds in their communities. When I first spoke in Parliament on this issue in March 2019, I mentioned the men’s shed in Coatbridge, which had been formed six months previously, and it was already proving valuable for the members who attended. At that time I mentioned that I was wishing them well in re-establishing their men’s shed: there had been a fire, and the venue where their meeting took place had been totally destroyed. I am happy to say that they recovered from that setback, and that the shed continues to play an important role in the lives of those who have become involved.

In that same debate, I spoke about the health and wellbeing benefits that men can accrue from men’s sheds. That is important because—as we should reiterate—in our society, many men adhere to an outdated stereotype that they should not ask for help with their mental and emotional wellbeing. They are also far less likely to seek medical help with their concerns, and men’s sheds can play an important role in helping with that, too.

The role of men’s sheds among men in poorer communities has been understated. Loneliness and isolation, which have been mentioned by other members, have been linked to poverty, especially among working-age adults. Those who work for long hours on low pay and in poor conditions often need to work at the expense of socialising, and they may not be able to afford recreational activities.

Research by Samaritans has highlighted that many less well-off men struggled with poor mental health and suicidal feelings for years because opportunities to help them were missed. The men who were interviewed did not see community-based support projects as relevant to them before they reached crisis point. They also said that they wanted support services to offer the opportunity to make a contribution and to develop a feeling of inclusivity, with peer support and feelings of shared experience with others.

Interestingly, in 2017, Age Scotland surveyed shedders and reported that 86 per cent of them felt more involved in their communities, 93 per cent felt at home and 94 per cent felt that they had made good friends in their local shed. The majority of them also reported improved mental and physical health and the development of new skills. It is therefore clear that men’s sheds are vital in tackling some of the key indicators of poverty.

The coronavirus has brought with it additional challenges to mental health through factors such as loneliness, where men’s sheds play such a vital role. The pandemic itself, lockdown and the closure of men’s sheds have therefore been a setback to the wellbeing of some members of our society.

Maurice Corry’s motion mentions the £30,000 grant that was awarded to help sheds whose fundraising has been most significantly affected by Covid-19. That is of course welcome. I understand that that was on the back of a £50,000 grant for the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association in May 2020. That has been vital for keeping the umbrella organisation going during the unprecedented challenges that we have faced and for offering opportunities for members to virtually connect.

Although some men’s sheds continue to meet virtually, not being able to access or use virtual or computer equipment is a particular challenge among men of the age groups who most commonly come together in men’s sheds.

When I last spoke on men’s sheds, I concluded by stating my

“hope that men’s sheds continue to grow all around the country so that more men in Scotland can benefit from the improvement to their health and wellbeing”—[

Official Report

, 21 March 2019; c 44.]

which is what many shedders report. In echoing those sentiments, I commend the work that men’s sheds are doing to support their members throughout Covid-19.

I restate my hope that men’s sheds will soon be able to regularly meet face to face again. Once again, I thank Maurice Corry.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I, too, congratulate Maurice Corry on securing the debate. I led the members’ business debate on this very same issue on 21 March 2019, but those were very different days—“pre-Covid”, as we will all be calling them.

There are quite a few men’s sheds in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, but I will focus on those in Penicuik and Peebles, both of which I have visited on more than one occasion. Finance is a key and pressing common issue, pre-Covid and certainly now, as are premises—although that has been resolved, in the main, in Peebles. Both those sheds, like others in my constituency, were doing a grand job in bringing men together to socialise, putting their skills to work at their own pace, perhaps repairing town benches or making bird feeders or lamps to sell at local fayres to raise funds for local charities and so on. Just as necessary was the use of skills to successfully work out how to apply for various funds, how to secure accommodation and so on.

I turn to Penicuik men’s shed—whose modus operandi is similar to that of Peebles—which as yet lacks secure and suitable accommodation. It meets in a scout hut and, after years of trying to find a home, is still negotiating with Midlothian Council for suitable premises.

Penicuik men’s shed is currently closed, as all men’s sheds are, but its members are establishing protocols to safely reopen, such as warning signs and personal protective equipment. They have purchased Pathfinder, which is a distancing alerter that is worn on a lanyard and audible if too close to another wearer—we could perhaps all do with one of those in Parliament—and of course, most members have had their vaccine shots. Reopening is entirely in the gift of the scouts and, of course, when it is compliant with Scottish Government guidance.

Numbers are maintained with a weekly Zoom call of around 14, which is labelled, “It’s good to talk.” Members’ mental health is a concern during lockdown, but efforts are in hand to reach out to those who are considered the most at risk—shielding, living alone and so on. I believe that the shed’s active membership is currently around 38.

Peebles men’s shed has premises in what used to be the ex-servicemen’s club in Peebles and has around 80 members. Interestingly, as women, we can become part of the men’s shed. The members have worked hard to attract funding over the past three years or so, and now have grants in the bank.

About £10,000 from the council will pay for the purchase of the tools and equipment that they need and the training in how to use them; £9,000 from a common good fund will pay for the refurbishment of their local social and crafting space, with new walls, electrics, flooring, refreshments, cleaning-up area and furniture. They have £10,000 from the national lottery and have support towards rent from the Robertson Trust. I tell you this because it is a labyrinth of funding streams, and many men’s sheds members—shedders—spend their time working on that. Other fundraising has been restricted over the past year and they will get donations from members to keep the shed ticking by.

As with other men’s sheds, if and when members get the green light, Peebles men’s shed is reasonably well prepared with stocks of PPE. However, it still has some way to go to get the premises Covid-ready, although I understand that the workshops could probably get going straight away.

For both sheds—different in the stages of their evolution—Covid-19 has been and still is a huge challenge. Both sheds are keen to get going and to provide a safe place where men can stay healthy through activity and enjoy a bit of casual company. Ironically, social isolation probably gave birth to men’s sheds.

I finish with the words of Malcolm Bruce of the Peebles men’s shed, who said:

“The future? We will be back. It is what we do. There is too much at stake not to keep going. We owe it to our members who have supported us through Covid to provide them with the shed they asked for.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call the cabinet secretary to respond to and wind up the debate.

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

As members who took part in the debate did, I thank Maurice Corry for bringing the Scottish men’s sheds movement and the work of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association to the attention of the Parliament once more. It is right that we continue to support that important initiative—one that challenges social isolation and loneliness, contributes to positive health and wellbeing and provides many wider societal benefits to the communities that Scotland’s 189 men’s sheds serve.

As Christine Grahame pointed out, she lodged a motion in March 2019 to recognise the Scottish men’s sheds movement and the positive effects that it had on the shedders’ health and their communities. I remember from that debate—just as with this one—the positivity and good feeling across the chamber that members had for the sheds. Everyone had a story to tell about a visit to a men’s shed and what an uplifting and inspirational experience it was. Today’s debate has been no different.

I put on record my appreciation of the men’s sheds in my constituency of Clydesdale, including the one that I opened in Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill, not by cutting a ribbon but by sawing through a chunk of wood—it is typical of the men’s sheds movement to be so innovative and imaginative.

In 2019, there were less than 170 men’s sheds in Scotland with 1,600 members.

Today, there are almost 190 sheds with 2,449 members. Despite the challenges that the Covid pandemic has placed on us all, numbers are continuing to grow. That is due in no small part to the efforts of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association and the tireless work of its chief executive, Jason Schroeder. Backed by sustained funding from the Scottish Government, the SMSA has been instrumental in embedding the men’s sheds concept in Scotland and enabling it to grow. Through Age Scotland’s shed development officer, we also provide funding of £50,000 per annum, which further demonstrates our commitment to supporting this incredibly important movement.

The men’s sheds in Scotland include older and younger men—unemployed and employed, skilled and unskilled. According to the SMSA, its value system is

“we value you for who you are, not what you do or have done”.

We know that men’s sheds have proven positive effects on physical and mental health. We also know that they contribute to tackling social isolation and loneliness by providing a space to meet, look out for one another and enjoy vital social camaraderie. That physical space is important. During the Covid pandemic, shedders have admirably risen to the challenge and have quickly organised Zoom meetings with one another, provided Facebook updates and digital support and given helpful advice on social distancing measures.

Elaine Smith spoke about the issue of people who are not digitally connected, which has become so apparent during the pandemic. I point to the significant investment that we have made in the connecting Scotland programme. As that project continues to develop throughout the year, I hope that Elaine Smith can look for opportunities for her constituents to make use of it. The SMSA has also been instrumental in that work by providing vital funding and support to sheds to enable them to communicate digitally. We have made additional funding available to the SMSA—in December last year, we provided it with an extra £100,000 as part of the direct response to supporting sheds during Covid. The package includes a £30,000 emergency fund, which the SMSA is managing and individual sheds can tap into for help while they remain closed.

We know that the physical space of the shed is what makes it so special, and we are aware of the need to get shedders back into their sheds as soon as possible, but that must be done carefully when it is safe to do so. Currently, the SMSA is finalising its own updated advice in the run-up to the reopening of the sheds. Through extra Scottish Government funds, it is also arranging the delivery of pathfinder lanyards to individual sheds, which, as Christine Grahame mentioned in her speech, will help shedders to maintain safe social distance from one another once back in the shed.

Most members will be aware of the range of activities that happen in many sheds, such as building buddy benches for schools, making planters or providing educational classes for the benefit of their wider communities. They also adapt well to the populations that they serve. Men’s sheds are providing a safe space for groups such as veterans, which I know is of particular interest to Maurice Corry.

During recent times, men’s sheds have shown a great sense of adaptability. An initial template that was devised by the Carse of Gowrie men’s shed for a protective face mask has been shared via the SMSA through its entire shed network, enabling that vital protective equipment to be shared with people across the country. During lockdown, many such projects have been completed by shedders from their own homes.

Of course, lockdown has closed sheds, and closed sheds mean that shedders have to stay at home. What was a source of companionship, activity and fun to men across Scotland has suddenly stopped in its tracks. We know that a key aim of the men’s sheds movement is to tackle social isolation and loneliness, which men can suddenly face during key life transitions such as retirement or the loss of a partner. Many members made that point in their contributions.

I am delighted that my colleague Christina McKelvie, the Minister for Older People and Equalities, has portfolio responsibility for leading the Government’s work in that space. Throughout the pandemic, she has engaged regularly with stakeholders in our national implementation group and heard at first hand how the pandemic has worsened some people’s existing experience, but also brought in new people who had not felt isolated or lonely before. Christina McKelvie is taking forward work to respond to that key issue and support the many people who are affected by it.

Our national strategy for tackling social isolation and building stronger social connections recognises the important role of men’s sheds and other community-based infrastructure where people meet regularly for company and camaraderie. They will be important as we seek to rebuild and reignite our communities in recovery. We will continue to work with our partners to develop that important intervention nationally, including by providing support to the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association.

Our evidence base continues to grow rapidly, and it corroborates that of the established international evidence on men’s sheds. As Maurice Corry, Rona Mackay and others noted, men’s sheds provide positive views of aging and later life. That was referenced in “The Shed Effect” study that was carried out by Age Scotland, which was funded by the Scottish Government. That report highlighted that 76 per cent of those who were surveyed agreed that their physical health had improved as a result of being involved in the shed, and 79 per cent of those surveyed felt that their mental health had improved as a result of shed involvement. That aligns perfectly with what Kenneth Gibson said about one woman’s description of the impact that a shed had had on her father: she said that it gave her back her dad. Those immensely powerful words show just how important the sheds are.

It is clear. We all agree that men’s sheds are brilliant things and that they transcend the sum of their parts. They give back so much more than any of us could ever have foreseen. They are places of joy and happiness for the shedders; they impact so positively on mental and physical health; they ensure that their members get a warm cuppa and a meal; they closely look after their people; and they ensure that no one is left alone.

However, they do more than that. They impact positively on their wider communities. They help to support the wellbeing of us all, society wide. Everyone can benefit from a men’s shed in their community. That is why they are so important and still need our strategic support, and why it is important that everyone, including our local partners—local authorities and the third sector—and, more generally, the national health service and community workers, continues to back the men’s sheds movement in Scotland and the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association.

In response to Brian Whittle’s points about the third sector more generally, I point him to the social renewal advisory board’s funding. We are continuing to work with our third sector partners on how we continue to support the third sector more generally. Third sector organisations, including men’s sheds, have been immensely important in ensuring the resilience of the country in response to the pandemic. They have rolled up their sleeves, have got on with things and have met the challenges that the pandemic has posed in our communities. They have done that with nimble agility and have made sure that they provide support on the important issues that need to be tackled across our communities.

We will continue to work with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and others on how we support, recognise and respect the third sector as we go forward, because it has done so much. As the SCVO campaign points out, in light of the pandemic, third sector organisations

“have never been more needed”.

The men’s shed movement is phenomenal, and members have spoken vividly about how much it contributes. Recognising its achievements and its continued work is worthy of time in our Parliament. Again, I thank Maurice Corry.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you very much. That concludes our debate on men’s sheds. We will move on in a moment to the next item of business. First, I hand over to my fellow deputy presiding officer, Linda Fabiani.

17:43 The members’ business debate on Highlands and Islands medical service will be published tomorrow, Friday 19 February 2021, as soon as the text is available.