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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 5, 2024


Volunteers Week (40th Anniversary)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-12850, in the name of Kevin Stewart, on the 40th anniversary of volunteers week. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

I invite members who wish to speak to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the 40th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, which will take place from 3 to 9 June 2024; notes that Volunteers’ Week, which takes place from the first Monday of June every year, celebrates what it considers to be the invaluable contribution that volunteers make to society by selflessly giving up their time and energy to help other people, as well as inspiring others to try their hand at volunteering; understands that Volunteers’ Week will be marked by thousands of charities, voluntary groups and social organisations coming together across hundreds of events and activities, including volunteer recruitment events, open days, coffee mornings and awards ceremonies, and culminating with “The Big Help Out”, which is aimed at encouraging more people to become part of the volunteering community; sends its best wishes to everyone taking part in Volunteers’ Week, and thanks all the volunteers for everything that they do in improving lives in Aberdeen and in communities across Scotland.


Kevin Stewart (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

It is a great privilege to open this debate celebrating the 40th anniversary of volunteers week, and I thank all those members who signed the motion.

Volunteers week is an annual campaign that takes place from the first Monday in June and consists of thousands of charities and voluntary organisations recognising the contribution of volunteers to our society. As well as offering an opportunity to thank volunteers and recognise the value of their time, passion and skills, volunteers week acts as a chance to inspire others to give volunteering a go.

The debate is unlikely to garner a huge amount of media coverage, even though it should. However, I know that it will be reported by Charles Fletcher of Caledonia Media and will be broadcast on community radio stations across Scotland, including—I hope—SHMU FM, from the Station House Media Unit in Aberdeen. Our community radio stations are run largely by amazing volunteers, who are to be commended for bringing local news, information and entertainment to their locales.

Many of SHMU’s volunteers are young people. In my home city of Aberdeen, youth volunteering is of immense value, with 3,154 young people aged between 12 and 25 undertaking Scottish Government Saltire awards for volunteering. The Saltire awards are national awards that are endorsed by the Scottish Government, and they are delivered in each local authority area by third sector interfaces to recognise the contribution that young people make through volunteering and the achievements of young volunteers. Certificates are awarded in recognition of undertaking 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 or 500 hours of volunteering, and are signed by either the First Minister or the Deputy First Minister.

I have previously had the pleasure of awarding Saltire certificates to young people from schools such as Harlaw and St Machar academies; to a young man who was supporting older people with their information technology skills at the Silver City Surfers; and, on a number of occasions, to young people who have been helping disabled Aberdonians.

Yesterday, on power of youth day, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, David Cameron, and the Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations presented a Saltire summit award signed by our First Minister, John Swinney, to Lucas Mackenzie for 500 hours of volunteering with Future Choices, a charity that supports disabled people in the granite city. I am sure that every member in the chamber will join me in congratulating Lucas on that superb achievement.

Aberdeen has also led the way in acknowledging our volunteer stalwarts, with the annual Celebrate Aberdeen parade and awards. That is the brainchild of Morven Mackenzie, who wanted to recognise, thank and celebrate our city’s third sector organisations, community groups and volunteers.

However, volunteering is not just a nice thing to have—it has real economic and societal benefits, too. My hame toon benefits greatly from the contribution of more than 80,000 volunteers, who give an incredible 6.2 million hours of help every year. Their volunteering has an impact on every aspect of life in Aberdeen, with an overall social return on investment for volunteering in my city of 14 to one. In other words, for every £1 that is invested in volunteering, there is a cumulative economic, societal and public health return of £14.12.

As such, it is critically important that we, in the chamber, recognise the contribution of volunteers and do what we can to support them. An important part of that support is the “Scotland’s Volunteering Action Plan” document, which was co-created by the Scottish Government and Volunteer Scotland. It states that,

“The Volunteering Action Plan ... aims to create a Scotland where everyone can volunteer, more often, and throughout their lives.”

The action plan has four main goals:

“Increase volunteering participation by focusing on non-volunteers and lapsed volunteers, and especially those who’ll gain most benefit.

Widen access to volunteering by understanding and reducing the barriers to participation and supporting community-based, ‘place-making’ activities.

Listen to volunteers by ensuring that the volunteer ‘voice’ is heard and that volunteers help make the decisions that affect them.

Provide great experiences whereby volunteers feel supported, valued and recognised for their contribution.”

I am sure that we all wish the action plan success in increasing volunteering in our country.

Finally, I take the opportunity to thank those volunteers from organisations with whom I have recently met. Those organisations include Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust, We Too! and Aberdeen Cyrenians—there are too many more to mention. My gratitude extends to all the volunteers in Aberdeen and across Scotland for their selfless service, their dedication and their invaluable contribution to our society: thank you, thank you, thank you.

We move to the open debate.


Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I am pleased to speak in today’s debate marking the 40th anniversary of volunteers week, and I thank Kevin Stewart for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

Volunteers make a vital contribution to services and communities up and down the length of the country, and it is only right that Parliament has the opportunity to express its thanks. Volunteers provide benefits for so many communities across Scotland, and volunteering can be a truly rewarding experience for individuals who give up their time and share their talents to provide support.

The impact of volunteering can be seen across all sectors of society; we have heard some important examples of that from Kevin Stewart. The Fraser of Allander Institute has highlighted that voluntary organisations make huge contributions to different areas of our economy. I welcome the institute’s new project, which aims to identify the true scale of volunteering across the United Kingdom.

Regardless of the raw numbers, however, members need to look at the some of the huge gaps that would be left in communities if we did not have those volunteers doing that work. For example, we know that volunteering is an important part of the fight against loneliness in Scotland. A survey has shown that the most common type of informal volunteering involves supporting those who are at risk of loneliness, and we know that the support that they receive is so important. Age Scotland has identified that half of those over the age of 50 have sometimes struggled with loneliness.

However, rates of informal volunteering have been declining since the pandemic. That is an important issue that we need to look at, and we need to encourage individuals to support volunteering and take it up. However, there is an issue, in that Disclosure Scotland is potentially going to introduce fees for processing applications for volunteers under the protecting vulnerable groups scheme. That proposal could have a massive impact on some sectors if it goes through. I know that a consultation is taking place, but it would be good to get some views on that from the Minister for Equalities in her closing remarks.

The Scottish Men’s Sheds Association is a fantastic organisation that is supported by many volunteers. I am lucky to have a number of men’s sheds across my region, including in Forth Valley and the wee county. They provide support to individuals and communities, but we would not have that type of support in place if they were not run by volunteers. I therefore welcome that the Scottish Government has finally accepted the numerous calls to restore funding to the men’s sheds network, as that will help to support more than 200 sheds and 10,000 members across Scotland.

However, despite long-term funding for such organisations, it still remains for us to ensure that volunteer-led organisations can continue to be viable. As has been identified, they are assets in fighting loneliness and isolation. In so many sectors, organisations and areas in our communities and our constituencies, volunteering shows what the benefits are when individuals give of their time and of their talent to provide services in their communities.

In conclusion, the hard work and dedication of volunteers is so important to organisations and projects in every corner of Scotland. Their work is fundamental, and it is part of our fabric of our society. It is right and important that we celebrate them in the chamber today, and thank them for all that they do to support our communities up and down Scotland.


Martin Whitfield (South Scotland) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to follow Alexander Stewart’s contribution. I extend my thanks to Kevin Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber on what is the 40th anniversary of volunteers week. One can think back to those first volunteers 40 years ago, who were perhaps teenagers, or maybe even pre-teenagers, then, and who are perhaps still volunteering and organising and giving selflessly of their time.

According to the Scottish household survey in 2022, 46 per cent of respondents had taken part in some form of volunteering in the previous 12 months. In East Lothian, between 2015 and 2019, 33 per cent of adults volunteered formally, with volunteers contributing 3.1 million hours of volunteering.

I take the opportunity to focus on, and speak to, the young people who volunteer. Between 2019 and 2022, we saw a reduction, from 49 per cent to 37 per cent, in the number of young people who do formal volunteering, and a reduction from 25 per cent to 18 per cent for those doing informal volunteering.

Of course, that period of time straddled Covid, and it straddled a change in expectations of young people. Indeed, it showed a difference in the challenges that our young people face. It is to those 37 per cent and those 18 per cent who still volunteer that I extend my thanks, because the work that they do in helping other people—not just young people, but old people—with food deliveries, befriending, shopping, litter picks, or just chatting or being there, is a phenomenal contribution, and it shows what a great asset they will become as they grow up and enter adult life.

I take this opportunity to highlight our galas, particularly in the south of Scotland, where young people—sometimes slightly forced by their parents—come together to celebrate, usually on a Saturday. Indeed, I will make mention of Prestonpans gala this Saturday, which means that it will probably rain, so my apologies to door knockers who want to go out on that day. Even through the rain, those people bring a massive smile as they travel around the town, celebrating the joy of being young and celebrating the joy of what they can offer.

As local authority budgets become overstretched and community centres are forced to close, the challenges of volunteering—to echo Alexander Stewart’s comments—are getting greater. We need to look to the Scottish Government, to this place and to our local authorities to do as much as they can to facilitate the ease of volunteering, while doing so in a safe environment.

As is right, I want to thank all the volunteers across the south of Scotland and those who help to organise the volunteers. I make mention of the Pennypit Community Development Trust lunch clubs around East Lothian, which do so much; the volunteer befrienders at the Berwickshire Housing Association’s BeFriend project; Keep The Heid, a marvellous mental health cafe in Tranent, North Berwick and Haddington; those who walk our streets of Tranent as the Tranent Wombles; those who organise the tea dances in North Berwick; the work of the Eildon Housing Association with the Cyrenians, and their opportunities for active lives—OPAL—service for older people in Peebles, Galashiels and Hawick. I want to express my thanks to all of them because, without those volunteers, day-to-day life would be that little bit harder. Watching volunteers work, and sometimes participating, brings a smile, and that is what today and tomorrow should be about.


Marie McNair (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

I congratulate my colleague Kevin Stewart on securing this incredibly important debate. Volunteers are the backbone of our communities, and this week gives us the chance to recognise, celebrate and thank our incredible volunteers for all that they contribute to our local communities.

This year is extra special, given that it is the 40th anniversary of volunteers week. Today, we celebrate that milestone and pay gratitude to the volunteers in our constituencies. I have had the privilege of meeting many volunteers in my constituency over my three years as an MSP, and over a number of years as a councillor before that, so I know just how hard they work. I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests, which states that I am a former councillor.

As I have so many outstanding volunteers in my constituency, a four-minute speech does not, unfortunately, provide enough time to name them all. However, I will have a go, and I will name just a few of them. My sincere thanks go to the volunteers of Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels, Milngavie in Bloom, the Dalmuir Barclay church community pantry, Improving Lives, Faifley food share, Bearsden in Bloom, Golden Friendships, Clydebank men’s shed, Clydebank Asbestos Group, Milngavie and Bearsden men’s shed, Isaro Community Initiative, Clydebank group holidays, West Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, the Recycle Room, Milngavie Old People’s Welfare Committee, Clyde Shopmobility, the flourishing Faifley group, Stepping Stones and so many more.

I would also like to thank some volunteers who have sadly passed in my community, who gave everything to their cause. Bob Dickie and Hope Robertson of the Clydebank Asbestos Group, you will forever be remembered as stalwarts of the campaign for truth and justice for asbestos victims and as dedicated volunteers.

The contribution that volunteers make is often unseen, but it never goes unnoticed by me. I know how hard they all work, and we can see the level of dedication, commitment and passion that they bring to our towns. The work that volunteers in my constituency do has never been more vital, so it is time that we celebrate them for all that they do.

Volunteering not only is beneficial for our communities but has been shown to improve wellbeing, and it can help people to gain valuable skills and experience and to boost their confidence and even their job prospects.

In my Clydebank and Milngavie constituency, there has always been a community spirit of looking out for one another. The volunteers in the area harness that spirit. They truly come from all walks of life, and they have different goals, such as providing food parcels to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry, helping those with disabilities to access services and mobility scooters, litter picking and protecting our environment, and providing practical and emotional support and spaces to tackle social isolation. However, they all share one thing in common: they aim to make a positive difference to the lives of others.

Volunteering also has a ripple effect beyond the services that volunteers provide. Those acts of kindness and service inspire others to give back and help to foster the community spirit that keeps our towns going. I know of many individuals who have chosen to give back to the community after experiencing support and kindness from local volunteers. Even if that is just for a couple of hours a week or month, it can make such a difference. I know that many groups in my constituency are always looking for more help. Please reach out to them if that interests you. Every contribution matters, no matter how small.

To conclude, I say to the volunteers in Clydebank and Milngavie and Bearsden North, past and present, that I am forever grateful to them for what they have done for our constituents. Their selflessness, dedication and passion for helping others and improving our communities are truly awe inspiring. They have touched countless lives, and their communities are a better place for their being in them. I thank them so much.


Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (LD)

I am pleased to speak in this debate to mark the 40th anniversary of volunteers week, and I thank Kevin Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber.

There are many positives to volunteering. It can provide opportunities for people to develop new skills, improve their self-confidence and make new friends. We know that volunteering can improve health and wellbeing and strengthen feelings of connection to others in the community.

Across Scotland, more than one million people volunteered in 2022. That represents more than a fifth of all adults in Scotland taking advantage of the many volunteering opportunities that are available to contribute to their communities. In Scotland, 89 per cent of voluntary organisations are local, and 36 per cent are in rural areas.

In my constituency, there is a strong culture of community service. That is evidenced by the 272 registered charities, three community interest companies and 239 community groups on the islands. The umbrella group Voluntary Action Shetland plays an important role in supporting organisations across the isles. Searching on its website for volunteering opportunities brings up nearly 150 opportunities that are available right now. There is a diverse range of roles, including co-ordinating charity collection boxes for Guide Dogs Scotland, serving food at a daily charity lunch club and marshalling at the weekly parkrun event. That snapshot illustrates the variety of skill sets that volunteers can use and learn through volunteering.

Many inspiring examples of Shetland’s community spirit are demonstrated through volunteering, fundraising and community action. From the life-saving work of Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews and Dogs Against Drugs to the volunteers from Sound primary school who cook 100 Christmas dinners, and from the volunteers who train young people to sail tall ships to the people who volunteer their time to fundraise for local charities, many people give their time and energy to the causes that they care about.

I recently met the isles’ first youth-led charity, Open, and heard about the work that it does for young people’s peers in Shetland. Voluntary Action Shetland runs volunteering awards as well as the national Saltire awards scheme for young people. Such schemes recognise important contributions to volunteering and inspire others to get involved.

Community life is dependent on people giving up their spare time. I cannot think how the biggest event in the Shetland calendar, Up Helly Aa, would function without the legions of people of all ages taking on myriad diverse roles, from torch making to baking, which contribute so much to making those spectacular events run smoothly.

That is not to say that the voluntary sector does not face challenges. Recent reports from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations show that 76 per cent of organisations report an element of organisational finance in their top three challenges, citing rising costs and fundraising difficulties. More than half of organisations are also concerned about energy prices, and significantly more are concerned about the impact of those prices on the people and communities that they serve, with 70 per cent of organisations believing that financial hardship has become worse.

Although the third sector and volunteers rose to the challenge of the pandemic, showing how communities can pull together when facing difficulties, as we continue to recover, organisations report that volunteers have not always returned. At the same time, demand for services from the charity sector has increased, placing pressure on voluntary organisations.

Voluntary organisations and the third sector in general need to be provided with as much certainty as possible, through funding—from local government and national Government—that recognises the valuable contribution that they make to Scottish society.

I thank all volunteers in Shetland and across Scotland for dedicating their time and skills to their communities.


Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

I, too, offer my thanks to Kevin Stewart for lodging the motion for debate.

Volunteers week, the 40th anniversary of which we are now marking, gives us all the opportunity to celebrate the invaluable, inspirational and often unsung contribution that volunteers make to our communities. Ranging from providing support pre-birth, through childhood, into adulthood and then into older age, volunteers improve the lives of individuals, families and whole communities at every stage of life.

The Covid pandemic shone a stark light on how fragile communities can be and how vulnerable some of our citizens are, as well as on how much we all crave and need connection to others. Research estimates that 12.4 million people across the UK participated in volunteer activity at the height of the Covid-19 crisis and, of those, 3.8 million had volunteered for the first time.

In my Rutherglen constituency, the Blantyre official coronavirus support group swung into action, alongside many volunteers from Halfway, Cambuslang and Rutherglen, co-ordinated by Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust and the LEAP Project. They delivered food and prescriptions to those who were shielding or who could not get out, and they provided friendship and support through phone calls, as well as myriad other types of practical assistance to locals.

Although those were very dark days, the number of people who stepped up to assist their family, friends and neighbours was quite remarkable. The challenge now is to try to harness the benefits of that community and volunteering spirit to further promote social cohesion, maintain community resilience and further improve the lives of others.

Unsurprisingly, I will use the remainder of my time in the debate to pay tribute to a host of voluntary groups in my constituency—from bonnie Blantyre at one end of my constituency, which has done incredible work to spruce up and green the town, including by creating a community garden, to the Rutherglen rotary club at the other, which, among other things, fundraises for local and international causes, including to build schools and toilets in Africa and Asia. Between them geographically, there are organisations such as Grow 73, Burnhill action group, friends of Cambuslang park and friends of Holmhills wood, to name but a few that have created and nurtured green spaces for people and wildlife to use and thrive.

Although many voluntary groups are unique to the areas in which they are based, our communities also benefit from national volunteering organisations. Scout, cub, guide and brownie leaders provide invaluable opportunities to local children and young people, and many have done so for many years. Two such volunteers in my Rutherglen constituency, Nigel MacDonald and Claire Quinn, have, for years, given hours of their time to help local kids to develop new skills and have fun.

Local sports organisations would not exist without the dedication of many local people. Coaches and volunteers, including Jimmy Whelan at Blantyre Soccer Academy, Andy Rundell at Eastfield United Football Club and Colin Henderson at Rutherglen amateur swimming club, all provide children, young people and adults with the opportunities that only sport can give.

In my constituency, churches including Rutherglen West and Wardlawhill parish church and Blantyre old parish church run warm hubs and cafes, which act as social hubs for local people and are all run by local volunteers. At St Columbkille’s church, bereavement and dementia support groups, again run by volunteers, provide a lifeline for many local people.

As an MSP, I have the privilege and pleasure of trying to improve my constituency, but many people do that voluntarily and out of love for their communities, including those on community councils in Blantyre, Halfway, Cambuslang, Burnside and Rutherglen. For example, Cambuslang community council has been behind projects such as the bank hub on Cambuslang Main Street—which has been a godsend since all the major banks left the town—and streetscape improvements, and it is included in the partnership that has created the Clyde cycle park.

I could mention many more local individuals and organisations that make my constituency a better place to live, work and grow, but time is against me. All the organisations that I have named, and those that I have not, are successful due to the individuals behind them, whose only motivation is to improve the communities that we live in. I thank each and every one of them for what they do.


Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

I thank Kevin Stewart and all those who have taken part in the debate. Politics does sometimes work by consensus and tonight has been consensual—at least until I speak.

I have the privilege of convening the cross-party group on volunteering and I would welcome any member who wanted to come and join the group. I have been convener of the CPG for the past couple of years and it has been interesting and inspiring to hear what is happening across Scotland.

Volunteering helps the volunteer as well as the project or community, so there is a benefit for both individuals and organisations. When I was in hospital at the end of last year and beginning of this one, our morning and dinner-time tea and coffee were served by volunteers. What was far more important than the tea, coffee and biscuits was the conversation—for patients who had very few visitors, that was often the only conversation that they had with anyone other than nursing staff.

We have heard many inspiring stories from those who have spoken today, but we face a problem. Last year, for the first time, the number of people volunteering in Scotland fell below 1 million. One of the few positives that came from the pandemic was that individuals volunteered and got involved in their communities. As we have returned to normality, people have been pressed—

Will Mr Balfour give way?

Jeremy Balfour

I will be happy to after I finish this sentence.

People are pressed by work and family commitments and may not be able to volunteer in the same way, which is something that all of us, from all parties, should reflect on.

Kevin Stewart

I do not want to be overly political in what has been a very good debate, but we must recognise what some volunteers have faced in their own lives of late. I have spoken to a number of folk who have previously volunteered but who are unable to do so now because they have had to take on second jobs to make ends meet during the cost of living crisis. We must take cognisance of that. I will leave that there, because I do not want to get too political, but we must recognise what today’s world is bringing folk.

Jeremy Balfour

I absolutely accept the member’s comments. There are a number of reasons for the fall in volunteer numbers—SCVO has done quite a lot of work on that—but we should address the issue now, before the numbers fall any further. There is also a challenge for businesses to allow people time for volunteering, because volunteers are often the engine that keeps Scotland’s third sector moving.

I have one issue to raise with the minister. I hope that she will reflect on the PVG application fee waiver and come back to us. She will be aware that those in the third sector are deeply concerned by the financial implications and what that will do to volunteers. I hope that the Government will look at that afresh and give some reassurance to the organisations involved.

Finally, I thank the hundreds—thousands—of people who volunteer in the Lothians. Tonight, cub groups, scout groups and so many other groups will meet, only because of volunteers who give up their time. We can all unite in thanking people for what they do across our country, and I look forward to more people volunteering in Scotland.

I invite Kaukab Stewart to respond to the debate.


The Minister for Equalities (Kaukab Stewart)

I have been delighted and heartened to hear the contributions from members from across the chamber, and I thank Kevin Stewart for securing the debate to allow us to highlight the contribution that volunteers make.

As we mark the 40th anniversary of volunteers week, it is clear that each and every one of us in the chamber recognises the value of volunteering. I will refer to some of the organisations, across the length and breadth of the country, that were mentioned by my colleagues.

As is very important, I give my whole-hearted thanks to all who freely give up their time to help others. Volunteers are truly the backbone of not only the third sector but our society as a whole. I, along with the rest of the Scottish Government, hugely value the contributions that they make to the lives of people across Scotland.

The experience of the past four years has demonstrated the powerful impact of volunteers during times of crisis. Clare Haughey mentioned the contribution of the volunteers who stepped up in amazing fashion to respond during the pandemic. Ukraine was another opportunity in which volunteers came forward, as were severe weather events—and, of course, volunteers have helped out during the cost of living crisis.

However, we all know that volunteers are there not just during times of crisis but every day, in our communities. Their unpaid efforts help us to address some of the biggest challenges that we face, from mental and physical health to social isolation and loneliness. Kevin Stewart mentioned community radio stations, which play an enormous role in connecting and entertaining communities across Scotland and locally.

As I have mentioned, the unpaid efforts of volunteers help us to address some of the biggest challenges that we face. Volunteers have shown, time and again, their extraordinary commitment and huge enthusiasm in helping others. Marie McNair mentioned a very impressive list of the many volunteer groups and opportunities across Clydebank, Milngavie and Bearsden North. She also highlighted the kindness and generosity of spirit that is involved in volunteering.

Without volunteers, many community activities would simply not take place. Martin Whitfield mentioned gala days, which many people go along to enjoy. I wish him good weather for the gala in Prestonpans. There is no doubt that volunteering brings communities together and helps people to feel valued and part of something good—there are many benefits to volunteering.

I recognise some of the challenges that have been mentioned by my colleagues. Alexander Stewart and Jeremy Balfour mentioned PVG fees. I reassure them that no decision has yet been made on that. I am grateful to everyone who has engaged with the recent consultation on future fee policies for Disclosure Scotland. Work is under way to apply vital feedback—and we will take feedback from tonight’s debate as well—to help with that policy development work.

Before I run out of time, I want to make sure that I mention everybody. Beatrice Wishart talked about the valuable work that Voluntary Action Shetland does and the challenges that it seems to manage in a brilliant fashion in order to play its important role in co-ordinating so many groups across islands. I pay tribute to its work in that rural challenge.

Beatrice Wishart talked about funding. In May 2024, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice wrote to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee to report on progress against the Government’s expectations on fairer funding commitments. I refer Beatrice Wishart to that and I encourage her to come back to me for any further information.

I take the opportunity to highlight the Government’s commitment to volunteering. Colleagues mentioned the challenge of recruiting volunteers. The Scottish Government’s 10-year volunteering action plan is a living plan that seeks to increase participation and reduce barriers to volunteering. Volunteer Scotland is leading the implementation of the plan with the combined efforts of the voluntary sector and partners. The plan will help to create a Scotland in which everyone can volunteer more often and throughout their lives. It acknowledges the reach of volunteering and the vital role of volunteers in the delivery of services across Scotland.

I will bring my remarks to a close, because time is pressing. I continue to be inspired by our wonderful volunteers across the country, who go above and beyond to support others. Whatever volunteering they do, I hope that they know that their help, support and care make a wonderful difference in the lives of others. What better way to mark the 40th year of volunteer week than by celebrating that?

That concludes the debate, and I close this meeting of the Parliament.

Meeting closed at 19:07.