This week marks Volunteers’ Week and I think it is right to highlight and celebrate the thousands of selfless people who willingly give up their time in the service of their communities and for other people.
Volunteers make an incredible contribution to Scottish society, and I am delighted that across my Rutherglen constituency thousands of dedicated volunteers are working across a range of different sectors.
In a parliamentary debate last year, I noted that in South Lanarkshire, an estimated 25 per cent of the population volunteer in a number of activities, including youth work for the Scouts and Guides and helping out at the Rutherglen and Cambuslang food bank.
From those giving up their time at the R:evolve Recycle project on Main Street, Rutherglen, to the coaches at Blantyre Soccer Academy at the other end of my constituency, volunteers are our communities’ most important resource and our biggest assets.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to those who volunteer nationally—for example, those doing incredible work manning the telephones at charities such as Samaritans and Childline.
Another example of the great work done by volunteers are our local Community Councils, including Rutherglen, Burnside, Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre. They act as a vital link between our communities and local authorities, and they play a crucial role in ensuring that public bodies are aware of the opinions and needs of the communities that they serve.
Indeed, only last week, it was great to see that the campaign run against the proposed incinerator in Hamilton over the last few years by Blantyre and Halfway Community Councils, supported by Rutherglen and Cambuslang, conclude successfully with the developer withdrawing their planning appeal to build the incinerator.
Both Community Councils undertook a major campaign in opposition to the incinerator last summer, knocking on the doors of almost every house in their council wards. In doing so, they amassed more than 4,000 objections to the proposal.
Community Councils are also key players in local regeneration and community empowerment projects. A perfect example being the great work done by Cambuslang Community council on the regeneration of Cambuslang town centre. I have been pleased to support their Futures Forum events. It is an incredibly exciting project, and it is one that the new SNP administration at South Lanarkshire Council is supporting through various initiatives.
Many of our national and local charities also depend on the support of volunteers, and there are many good examples of this in the charity and hospice shops in our communities.
I was delighted last week to meet with local woman, Janice Malone, who is the Engagement and Volunteering Manager for Macmillan Cancer (Scotland.) Janice highlighted the range of activities and services Macmillan deliver with the support of volunteers.
From raising funds to providing information and support at events and in the community, or providing practical and emotional support on home visits, Macmillan volunteers bring a wide range of skills and lived experience which is invaluable to those living with cancer and their families.
This is emulated across a wide range of organisations and I would like to thank all my constituents who volunteer in community groups and charities across the constituency for giving so generously of their time.
Volunteers’ Week serves not only as an opportunity to showcase the great work done by volunteers, but also acts as a call to get more people involved, where they have the time and skills to offer.
There is no doubt, our society is much better because of what they do.