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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 29 March 2017

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Education, SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group Memorandum of Understanding, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Rotary Clubs (Champions of Change Awards)


Contents


Rotary Clubs (Champions of Change Awards)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-03750, in the name of John Lamont, on congratulations to Rotary district 1020 and other champions of change winners. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament praises the excellent work of Rotary clubs across Scotland in delivering projects to improve their local area and beyond, as well as providing friendship and support for their members; congratulates Rotary District 1020 on being awarded two out of 12 Rotary Champions of Change awards in 2016 for humanitarian service; understands that Grant Stephen of the Rotary Club of Duns was commended for setting up and running the Dementia Café in Duns and Robin Hamilton of the Rotary Club of Dunbar received an award for his project in India providing sanitation at schools in the Kalimpong district; notes that the 2017 Champions of Change awards ceremony will be taking place in April and will once again recognise unsung heroes in domestic and international categories; further notes that the Rotary Club of Galashiels has recently delivered 15 analogue breast screening lorries to India, in partnership with Indian Rotaries and led by local Rotarians, Patricia Paterson and Peter Croan; believes that the fantastic work of groups such as District 1020 and other Rotarians across Scotland makes a huge difference to local communities across Scotland and worldwide, and congratulates Rotary International, which is celebrating its 112th anniversary in 2017.

17:07  

John Lamont (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

I lodged today’s motion as an opportunity to praise the excellent work of Rotary district 1020, which covers my constituency in the Borders as well as much of the south and east of Scotland. Last year, district 1020 members picked up two out of 12 Rotary champions of change awards, which recognise contributions to humanitarian services worldwide. I take the opportunity to welcome those members and other Rotarians from Duns, Dunbar, Larbert, Galashiels, Edinburgh and elsewhere to the gallery this evening.

Tonight’s debate is also an opportunity to hear about the good work that is being done by other districts and Rotarians across Scotland. There is much good work to speak about, so I thank members from across the chamber who have signed the motion and who are here tonight to join me in acknowledging the contributions of Rotarians to improving the lives of Scots and people elsewhere.

Rotary was formed in 1905 in Chicago by Paul Harris, who was a Chicago attorney who with five others founded the Rotary Club of Chicago. Those pioneers decided to hold meetings in each other’s homes on a rota basis, hence the name “Rotary” was adopted.

In 1906, the very first act of Rotary service was the provision by the Chicago club of a public toilet outside Chicago city hall. From that small beginning, every year Rotary clubs undertake practical acts of service in communities across the world, and they have gone on to represent 1.2 million members. Rotary also operates the largest educational scholarship programme in the world in the form of the Rotary Foundation, and finances the largest humanitarian programme anywhere.

Closer to home, Rotary district 1020 covers much of the south and east of Scotland, from South Queensferry to the Scottish Borders and from Kilsyth to Newton Stewart, including Edinburgh. It has some 1,700 members, several Rotaract clubs for 18 to 30-year-olds and a growing number of RotaKids clubs for primary schools. Like other Rotary districts, 1020 does a huge amount of fantastic and worth-while work. Rotary clubs utilise the skills, expertise and dedication of their members to help to improve the lives of people in communities at home and abroad. In the UK, that is more than 50,000 men and women from all walks of life working towards positive change in neighbourhoods near and far. Whether it was fundraising for local charities, volunteering at local residential homes, working with disadvantaged children, arranging the local firework or flower displays, we have all come across worth-while projects in our constituencies.

Internationally, Rotary clubs reach out to people in need; for example, people who are suffering from disease or malnutrition, or who are first responders to natural disasters. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, Mr Lamont—may I stop you there? I suspect that someone has a mobile phone switched on. Could everyone please check? I am sorry, Mr Lamont. Please continue.

John Lamont

Has the noise stopped?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I think so. I think that they have realised—look for the person with the red face.

John Lamont

It was not mine.

This evening is an opportunity to celebrate and share some of the great work that clubs across Scotland carry out. However, as well as contributing to improving the lives of others, Rotary clubs provide fellowship and companionship for their members. Volunteers are given the opportunity to develop personal skills and to develop better awareness of the problems that face the world today. They are also given an opportunity to meet, work and have a great time with like-minded people. That aspect of Rotary life is often overlooked, but membership serves an important purpose and provides Rotarians with an opportunity that would otherwise be difficult for some to access.

In the Scottish Borders and in my constituency there are so many fantastic examples of the excellent work that is carried out by district 1020, such as the dictionary 4 life project that saw all primary 6 pupils at Burnfoot school in Hawick being given a dictionary. In addition, Rotarians keep children safe at the Border Union Agricultural Society show each year; and there was the Rotary Club of Jedburgh’s generosity to the group of Chernobyl schoolgirls who visited the Borders and were kitted out with new winter and summer shoes, thanks to the generosity of local residents.

There are so many worth-while projects that I could mention, but in the limited time that I have this evening, I will pick out just three examples of the excellent work that was carried out in district 1020 last year. Grant Stephen, of the Rotary Club of Duns, was given a champions of change award last year for his outstanding work in helping the local community. Grant raised money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Scotland and played a key role in the project to recognise Duns as a dementia-friendly town. Like the rest of the Borders, Duns has a higher proportion of elderly people in its population than the national average, so that work is all the more important for local residents.

Robin Hamilton, of the Rotary Club of Dunbar, received a champions of change award as a result of his involvement with the Kalimpong project in Bengal in India. The project helps to tackle the problem of human trafficking by providing shelter homes and vocational training centres. More than 100,000 children and many more adults are estimated to be trafficked in India every year. That initiative is therefore really worth while, and Robin has helped to raise nearly £50,000 for it since the project began in 2012.

Finally, the Rotary Club of Galashiels and District in the Borders has delivered 15 analogue breast screening lorries to India, in partnership with Indian Rotary clubs and led by local Rotarians Patricia Paterson and Peter Croan. The increasing toll of breast cancer in developing nations is a devastating situation. The disease was once considered to be a problem of affluent nations, but it is now rooted firmly in developing nations such as India. The breast-screening project will help in tackling the problem.

I am delighted that representatives from Rotary district 1020 are here with us this evening to celebrate their fantastic achievement last year. We have with us in the gallery Robin and Carol Hamilton, Grant and Anne Stephen, Patricia Paterson, Peter Croan and many others from across the district.

I am sure that we will hear about the work of Rotarians across other parts of Scotland in the debate, but I would appreciate hearing something from the minister about what the Scottish Government is doing to support the Rotary movement. I know, for example, that in partnership with local authorities, many Rotary clubs are involved in delivery of the community payback order system, and that others are involved in delivery of Scottish Government funded projects. A partnership exists, therefore, that I hope can be improved and developed.

As elected representatives, we can all play a part in supporting and promoting that fantastic work in our communities. Given the hard work that is carried out by Rotarians, the least that we can do is give up some of our time to speak at their events, write about the work of our local Rotary clubs in local newspapers or share a post or two on Facebook.

I am delighted to see the level of support in the Scottish Parliament for the Rotary movement, and I know that MSPs from across Scotland are grateful for the hard work of Rotarians in their areas. They deserve our support because, without them, hundreds of thousands of pounds would not be raised for charity, local projects would not be supported and many desperate people around the world would not get the help that they need. [Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I request that people in the gallery do not show their appreciation or otherwise. Thank you.

17:15  

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I congratulate John Lamont on securing the debate. Although I recognise and applaud all Rotarians for their voluntary and humanitarian work at home and abroad, I will restrict myself to some examples from my constituency of Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, which has Rotary clubs from east to west—at Melrose, Peebles and Penicuik; at Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair; at Lauderdale; and at Galashiels and district, as is mentioned in the motion.

I will start with the club in Gala and a project that was mentioned by John Lamont. After a meeting with a surgeon from Pakistan at an awareness day, plans unfolded to send redundant medical units to Pakistan. After some discussions with the director of NHS National Services Scotland, the national health service in Scotland made available to the Rotary Club of Galashiels and District trailers that had previously been used for breast cancer screening and which were available due to NHS Scotland upgrading its mammography X-ray screening technology from analogue to digital.

Amjad, the surgeon, advised that they could still be used in Pakistan and other parts of the world where analogue equipment is still in operation, so the trailers were shipped to Karachi in Pakistan, thanks to a generous donation from a businessman in Pakistan that met the substantial shipping cost of £133,000. Through the charity Rehabilitation Response, it was ensured that the empty space inside the units was filled with furniture to be donated to schools in Pakistan. The medical units were shipped out and arrived in Karachi in July and the first week of August last year. Patricia Paterson, who is the president of Galashiels Rotary, and Peter Croan, who have already been mentioned, attended the formal handover ceremony. The delivery of the units with the facilities to undertake breast screening has raised awareness as well as providing screening. There is no doubt that screening for and detection of breast cancer are highly important, which is now recognised in countries including Pakistan and not just in places like Scotland.

There have been thoughts about other joint projects including one on fridges for polio vaccination and a family project at the Hands centre. Discussions have taken place with the Rotary Club of Karachi—the movement is international—about the fact that several of those ideas would be excellent for RotaKids projects. There has even been an assessment of the possibility that the clinical impact may be greater if a focus on eye screening was taken on board. Another idea is the conversion of medical units for limb facilities or a medical facility.

The Rotary Club of Peebles is a medium-sized club with some 25 members of all ages. They, too, have contributed internationally and locally, and in the past few years have set up a dental project in Nepal and a refuge for children who are affected by AIDS in South Africa.

The Rotary Club of Penicuik has worked on backpacks for Mary’s Meals, and while I am talking about meals, I note the sterling work that all the Rotary clubs do in collecting food for the food banks that, regrettably, we have. The Penicuik club has also collected for Macmillan nurses, whether at the end of the checkouts in the supermarket or on the streets, and it raised funds this month for the trustees of Friends of Chitambo, which supports a hospital in central Zambia.

I was pleased to welcome the Melrose Rotarians to a special lunch in the Parliament with others who had adopted stations along the Borders railway. The planting spaces at Tweedbank are a local focus for them, and they also support other local events.

From flower beds to collecting tins and major charitable work such as shipping medical supplies and support abroad, the touch of the Rotarians’ voluntary work is invaluable. I am pleased to support John Lamont’s motion and I congratulate the Rotarians on all the work that they do across my constituency and elsewhere in Scotland.

17:20  

Rachael Hamilton (South Scotland) (Con)

I am proud to take part in the debate, and I thank my friend and colleague John Lamont for securing it. I warmly welcome the Rotary members who have joined us in the gallery. Tonight, we recognise their fantastic work. They are men and women who come from all walks of life and whose aim is to contribute to the lives of others and to make a positive impact, at home and abroad.

In February 2017, just last month, I attended an event here in the Parliament to celebrate the 112th worldwide anniversary of the Rotary organisation. My colleagues and I met Rotary representatives to learn more about local community initiatives and the Purple4Polio initiative, which was set up to eliminate polio throughout the world.

Two Rotary members from district 1020, who are with us in the gallery tonight, have made such an impact: Grant Stephen and Robin Hamilton. Recently, the district governor, Andy Ireland, proudly accompanied both gentlemen to the House of Lords, where they received champions of change awards.

I should declare an interest as, in my career as an agronomist, I worked with Grant Stephen, and I know that his enthusiasm knows no bounds. It came as no surprise that Mr Stephen’s work has been recognised. His relentless campaigning to raise money for Alzheimer Scotland has been influential, with Duns being recognised as a dementia-friendly town. That is brilliant for the Borders town and it is brilliant for raising Alzheimer’s awareness across Scotland.

We all know somebody with dementia. My grandfather had vascular dementia, which impacted hugely on our family. Every 30 minutes, someone in Scotland is diagnosed with dementia. About 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia and researchers now understand that one in three people born in 2015 will go on to develop dementia in their lifetime, unless a cure or a vaccine is found. In the context of how prevalent the disease is becoming, I hope that towns and cities across the south of Scotland and the whole of Scotland will use Grant Stephen’s work as an example of how to deliver dementia-friendly communities.

Robin Hamilton from the Rotary Club of Dunbar won accolades for his work in the Kalimpong project in Bengal in India, helping to tackle human trafficking and in the process raising nearly £50,000 since the project began in 2012. Kalimpong, which is in north-east India, close to the borders with Nepal, Bhutan and China, contains many vulnerable people at risk from human trafficking because of high unemployment and a lack of steady income. Those who are trafficked are at risk of becoming HIV positive and developing AIDS. Even when they are rescued, they risk rejection from their communities.

To put the seriousness of the human trafficking situation in the area into perspective, the figure of three cases in northern Bengal in 2001 had increased to more than 1,000 by 2010. In 2012 there were 8,000 girls missing in Bengal, many of whom had been taken into trafficking on the false promise of work in the city. Instead, they were trafficked for just $1,000. That is said to be just a small part of the picture. It is immensely saddening to hear of such practices and of vulnerable people being exploited to this day.

On a positive note, however, Robin Hamilton aims to create awareness through the Kalimpong project, teaching communities about trafficking and HIV/AIDS, providing vocational training to create sustainable livelihoods and creating a shelter home for women and young girls. We can all recognise the importance of Robin’s work, and it is right that we congratulate him and pay tribute to the project.

The work of Grant Stephen and Robin Hamilton does not stop here. They will continue to make a positive impact. I wish them all the best, and I congratulate them once more on receiving their champions of change awards. Furthermore, I congratulate Rotary International, which celebrates its 112th anniversary this year.

17:24  

Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

I thank John Lamont for securing tonight’s debate and giving us the opportunity to speak about Rotary district 1020. As he said, the district stretches across south and much of central Scotland. Right across that part of our country, rotaries provide support and companionship to each other and to guests. They are also very much embedded in their local communities.

That is certainly the case in all five towns in my constituency, East Lothian. That engagement is multifaceted: groups do their own fundraising, they provide fundraising support for other local charities, and they provide stewarding at important community events, from the North Berwick highland games to the Haddington agricultural show.

This evening I want to focus on the Rotary Club of Dunbar. I declare an interest: on a number of occasions I have enjoyed Dunbar Rotary’s hospitality, in return for which the club has endured having me as a speaker for the evening. I want to focus on Dunbar Rotary’s international work, because, as members said, the club’s former president, Robin Hamilton, won the 2016 champion of change award for his work on the project in Kalimpong.

Dunbar Rotary’s connection with Kalimpong started in a very Rotary fashion: at a meeting in Belhaven in 2011, when Dr Miku Foning, from the Rotary Club of Kalimpong, was the club’s visiting guest. As Rachael Hamilton told us, Dr Foning described the situation for many people in Bengal, in north-east India. He talked about their vulnerability to trafficking, prostitution, slavery and forced marriage and how they were simply disappearing into one of those dreadful fates.

Robin Hamilton did not just listen to the story of his colleague from India but responded, by asking the simple question, “How can we help?” From that was born the Sadhu Singh project. Robin mobilised not just Dunbar Rotary but 16 Rotary clubs from across Scotland and indeed places as far-flung as the Czech Republic, to raise funds to provide a vocational training centre, where people at risk would be able to learn seven different trade skills, to enable them to find a sustainable way to live and to avoid falling into the hands of traffickers. The clubs raised funds themselves and accessed a Rotary International global grant of around $69,000.

All that bore fruit last year, when seven Rotarians from Dunbar travelled to Kalimpong and took part in the opening of the vocational training centre, as it was handed over to the Diocese of North East India, which will run it. However, Dunbar Rotary is not resting on its laurels. It is now raising funds for phase 2, which is a shelter for young women and girls who are at risk of trafficking. The project has been marvellously successful, but of course it is not finished.

I will end by returning to the local, because that is the great strength of Rotary—it stretches across the world but its roots are completely embedded in its clubs and their communities. Just last night, I was privileged to be a judge at an East Lothian Foodbank girl guides cooking competition, which was the culmination of a programme that East Lothian Foodbank had run with local girl guide units, in which guides had to cook with food that the charity provides. The approach was all part of the charity’s outreach programme, and modest prizes were provided by the Dunbar and Musselburgh Rotary clubs. Of course, that is not the Rotary’s only engagement with the East Lothian Foodbank; it also collects food regularly.

The great strength of Rotary is in how the local and the international are wedded together. I can do no better than end by quoting Dr Foning, who said to Robin Hamilton during one of their meetings:

“We are in the river together and must swim til we get to the other side.”

That is what Dunbar Rotary has been doing, whether we are talking about the river at the corner of its own street or a river that flows from the foothills of the Himalaya. What a marvellous project that has been.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That was a long four minutes, Mr Gray, but they were certainly worth listening to. I call Stuart Stevenson to be followed by Alison Harris. I refer to your speech’s length, Mr Gray, in case it encourages Mr Stevenson.

17:29  

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I note the requirement for four minutes, Presiding Officer. I will use some of that to congratulate John Lamont on bringing the topic for debate to Parliament. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about Rotary clubs.

I welcome the times when we as a Parliament look to the actions of hard-working Scottish citizens and citizens across the world. In particular tonight, we reflect on the people in our nation’s Rotary clubs. The motto of Rotary International is “Service above self”. If we have heard anything from the speeches so far, it is that their work exemplifies that motto.

The awards that we acknowledge tonight are a small enough gesture when compared with all the hours of compassionate service that club members give. I cannot help wondering what the world would look like if we did not have Rotary or, on the other hand, if more people followed its example. We might have had to invent Rotary if it had not been invented 112 years ago.

Rotary has been part of my life for a very long time, although not district 1020. I was brought up in Cupar in Fife, and my father was the president of the Rotary club there from 1956 to 1957. I first spoke to the Rotary club there, I believe, in 1962, at a sons and daughters evening that the club had organised, at which I was responsible for the vote of thanks to the members. I also spoke to the club in 1974 about my career, which was computers. When I revisit that speech, I see that it was a sorry tale of computer failures and difficulties—it is on my website, if members wish to look at it, under the comments section. It will take them into distant history.

The Rotary club movement, then as now, seeks to educate and to support the efforts of others. It inspires and empowers people across the globe. Tonight we focus particularly on Rotary’s four-way test, which is part of the guiding principles for a club. It is an ethical guide to behaviour, and one that we can all learn from. It reads:

“Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Does it promote GOOD WILL AND BETTER FRIENDSHIP?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

I can certainly say, for my part, that friendship was a key part of what my father got out of being in Rotary and of what he was able to contribute to Rotary.

The people whom I see in old photographs of the club are all people whom I recognise and who were important parts of my life. I also knew what they did to support the local community and communities across the world. If the test—the ethical guide that Rotarians seek to live their lives by and to operate as Rotarians under—were adopted by us all in our own lives, we would be doing something quite special. We would run out of awards to give to people if everyone were to be serving. That would be no bad thing. We should aim for a day when we are a little less selfish and little more selfless.

I celebrate the efforts of Rotary clubs in Scotland and I hope that they will continue to evolve. From my contact with them, I know that they are very different from what they were 60 years ago; for example, the number of women members has grown, and the clubs are all the better for it. They also reach much further across the world. In the 1960s the Rotary Club of Cupar reached to Japan, which was thought to be extraordinarily novel.

Let me wish the Rotary clubs every possible success in the future. They had early promise, when after only 16 years they were established on six continents. Maybe we should invent some more continents—Rotary would be there before we turned our backs.

17:34  

Alison Harris (Central Scotland) (Con)

I am delighted that my colleague John Lamont has secured this debate for members’ business this afternoon. Rotary, organisations like it and organisations such as Probus, Rotaract, Inner Wheel, RotaKids, Round Table and the Ladies Circle are known for their fellowship and for raising funds for people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

At this stage, I declare an interest and say that I am a past chairman of Falkirk Ladies Circle. I certainly enjoyed many fun years being part of that group.

The annual champions of change awards give Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland the opportunity to recognise particular people—those unsung heroes who go that extra mile in assisting others or inspiring others to do so. I am talking about people like Robin Hamilton from Dunbar, who is a member of his local Rotary club. I know that we have heard about the following people already, but they are worth mentioning again. Several years ago, Robin met a fellow Rotarian from a small part of India that is sandwiched between Nepal, Bhutan and China. It is a prime target area for people traffickers. With many vulnerable people, high unemployment and an escalating number of people being reported as missing, something had to be done.

A project was set up locally to highlight the issue and to reduce the stigma of trafficked women returning, who often had AIDS and HIV. Plans were made for a shelter home to be set up for women and young girls, and work commenced on a vocational training centre. Although some funds and grants became available, it was clear that the costs were far beyond what could be raised locally.

Enter Robin Hamilton and the Rotary Club of Dunbar. With assistance from a number of clubs from Scotland, England, India and the Czech Republic working with local bodies, funds were raised for phase 1, which was the completion of works on the training centre, including security fencing, sanitation, electrical work and provision of furniture. Training courses will be run on subjects including tailoring, animal welfare, carpentry and horticulture. Phase 2 will involve the shelter home for trafficked women and girls. What a difference those facilities will make to the lives of the people concerned.

Not all champions of change are making a difference to people overseas. Grant Stephen of Duns—whom my colleague Rachael Hamilton mentioned—works tirelessly in his community to raise awareness of dementia, and assisted in the setting up of a dementia-friendly cafe in Duns.

Patricia Paterson, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Galashiels and District, was approached by a doctor who did corrective work on children in Pakistan. He mentioned that soon-to-be-redundant national health service breast screening units would be of great benefit to his work in Pakistan, because they could be used not only for breast screening but as mobile operating theatres and polio immunisation centres. Fellow Rotarian Peter Croan became involved and thoughts turned to the logistics of getting the units to Pakistan and meeting the £133,000 cost of shipping. Thanks to a generous donation from a Pakistani businessman, work on getting the units from Hamilton to Karachi gathered pace.

The units were filled with furniture that could be distributed to schools in Pakistan. Support was given by the British High Commission, and the project received positive coverage in Pakistan for Rotary and for Scotland. On 13 August 2016, 10 former NHS breast screening units were officially handed over. The ceremony was attended by the Chief Minister of Sindh province, who warmly thanked NHS Scotland and the members of the Rotary Club of Galashiels and District.

I am advised by the former district governor Andy Ireland that the Galashiels club intends to deepen the links that it has established through the project, and that it will continue to support projects to improve the lives of people in Pakistan.

I have touched on a few stories of ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. I hope that, tonight, they feel that they are no longer unsung heroes, and that they are, indeed, champions for change, and people who this Parliament recognises have truly put service before self.

17:38  

The Minister for International Development and Europe (Dr Alasdair Allan)

I thank John Lamont for his efforts in bringing the debate to Parliament. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the tremendous work of our Rotary clubs and to welcome many of their members to the public gallery. As we have heard, they are part of an outstanding worldwide organisation that works at local, national and international levels to run successful campaigns that save lives around the globe.

Rotarians have been using their skills and links to clubs around the world to work to alleviate some of the causes of poverty in countries in which millions of people die of starvation and from diseases that could be prevented by clean water, proper sanitation or medicines. Members have built links with national and international charities, non-governmental organisations and community groups to promote projects to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, to reduce child mortality and to help with disease prevention and education for all. When natural disasters strike anywhere in the world, Rotarians are often some of the first people to take action by organising collections that raise large sums of money for the various charities that are best equipped to provide relief to those who are in need.

As Mr Gray pointed out, we should remember that Rotary makes its mark not only overseas but here in our communities. Today, we have heard some great local examples of the contribution that Rotary has made to the lives of people across Scotland. Everything that is achieved by Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation depends entirely on the work of local clubs such as the Rotary clubs of Duns, Dunbar and Galashiels.

The cause of charitable endeavour—of, as the Rotary motto puts it, “Service above Self”—has a noticeable impact on people and communities across Scotland and beyond. The Government is clear that volunteering matters. It has huge economic significance, as it contributes more than £2 billion to Scotland’s economy every year, but perhaps more important is the fact that, without volunteers, many of our communities would simply cease to function. People all across Scotland make vital contributions every day to their families, communities and society as a whole—usually without fanfare or any reward—because they believe in the same things as we all believe in: equality for all, a fair society and a chance for everyone to participate and make a difference.

Volunteering is good for the volunteer, too, in building skills, enhancing employability and supporting mental wellbeing. At its best, volunteering in Scotland makes a crucial contribution to building social capital, fostering trust, binding people together and making our communities better places to live and work in.

On Mr Lamont’s question about potential sources of assistance for Rotarian projects, I would say that the most relevant sources of funding to any voluntary organisation include the community capacity and resilience fund, the empowering communities fund and the volunteer support fund. We recognise the numerous contributions that volunteers make as carers, providers, mentors and leaders and in many other roles, and we want to continue to support people to volunteer and to contribute to the issues that matter to them. That is crucial to our wider aim of creating a fairer, smart and inclusive Scotland with genuine equality of opportunity for everyone.

It is true that, in an increasingly globalised yet uncertain world, Scotland must remain internationally relevant. Scotland’s international framework, which was published in March 2015, sets the direction for Scotland’s international activity. The twin aims of that framework are

“To create an environment within Scotland that supports a better understanding of international opportunities and a greater appetite and ability to seize them”

and

“To influence the world around us on the issues that matter most in helping Scotland flourish.”

The framework acknowledges Scotland’s desire to be a “Good global citizen” by making

“distinctive contributions in addressing global challenges such as climate change, tackling inequality and promoting human rights”.

Last year, we updated Scotland’s strategies for engagement with India and Pakistan. Those strategies, which might interest members, look at how we can build sustainable partnerships in education, business, energy, water and culture. We are committed to building partnerships that have mutual benefit and which allow the countries involved to achieve their goals while collectively reducing inequality and building opportunities for mutual learning.

I take the opportunity to commend the Rotary clubs in Dunbar and Galashiels for their work in India and Pakistan on providing sanitation in schools and access to breast screening. As we have heard, such work is a clear demonstration that it is not simply for the Government and its agencies to pursue international links—important though that is—but for individuals and organisations to make the connections that impact so much on people’s lives.

It is impressive that community groups across Scotland are working tirelessly to improve lives not just in this country but, as we have heard, around the world. That provides evidence that our relationship with our friends and communities in other parts of the world is truly a combined effort and is being built up not just by Governments but by individuals and communities across Scotland, with much of the work being driven by groups such as our Rotary clubs.

The debate has been positive. I possibly feel personally cheated that I did not attend the Cupar Rotarian meeting in 1974 in which Mr Stevenson explained his views on computer programming, but I have no doubt that much traffic will be driven to his website after today to correct that historic wrong.

I echo the comment that it has given me great pleasure to acknowledge the tremendous work of our local Rotary clubs. I congratulate Rotary International, which celebrates its 112th anniversary this year. With the success of Scottish Rotary clubs at the 2016 champions of change awards, I wish our Rotary clubs all the best for the 2017 awards in April, which will again recognise unsung heroes in domestic and international categories. We should all work to ensure that Rotarians, who make a difference and volunteer their time for the benefit of others, get the recognition that they deserve, as they have today.

Meeting closed at 17:45.