MSPs urge John Swinney to reverse cut to Men’s Shed funding

MORE than 40 MSPs have urged John Swinney to u-turn on a cut to the funding of the Scottish Men’s Shed Association. 

The umbrella body for the groups will receive no more Government cash after a grant of £75,000 runs out later this year. 

Men’s Sheds are places for men to gather “socialise, talk about problems, and discuss any health concerns, be creative, help their communities.”

There are around 200 in Scotland. 

The chief executive of the association has called the decision “shortsighted” and “inexplicable” and pointed to Ireland which has more than 500 sheds, and receives funding of more than £1.2 million this year.

A petition launched by the SMSA calling for a rethink has already received nearly 4,000 signatures. 

It states: “In a post-pandemic world, when reducing social isolation and loneliness and reconnecting with our communities once again is paramount, the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association is making a call for action for the government to continue to financially support the national hub of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Movement and men’s health and wellbeing.”

The letter, which has received cross-party support, asks Mr Swinney “to revisit the present core and developmental funding for the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association so that they can continue to build upon the needed requirements of the Scottish men’s sheds health movement for the people of Scotland, rather than putting unsupported pressure on these thousands of volunteers and see a collapse of this national treasure that they have worked so diligently and passionately to create.”

In their joint statement, the SNP’s Kenny Gibson, Conservative Alexander Burnett, Labour’s Alex Rowley and Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur, said: “The Men’s Shed movement has been a tremendous success over recent years with the number of Sheds and ‘Shedders’ across the country continuing to grow.

“While every men’s shed is unique, they all provide a common purpose in providing men a place to gather, work and relax. Increasingly, it is recognised that these facilities make a tangible difference in efforts to tackle loneliness, social isolation and mental ill health.

“As we approach the tenth anniversary of the SMSA, now more than ever we need to redouble our commitment to the growth of this movement in Scotland. This is particularly critical in the context of the cost-of-living crisis and as part of our recovery from the pandemic.

“The Men’s Shed movement has long enjoyed strong cross-party support in Parliament. MSPs across the political spectrum recognise the value and importance of what sheds deliver in their constituencies and regions. Hopefully, this cross-party message of support for SMSA will prompt the Scottish Government to rethink its proposed cut and continue providing the modest level of funding that helps do so much good in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.”

SMSA Chief Executive Jason Schroeder added: “The SMSA has grown the Scottish Men’s Sheds movement from an initiatory idea in 2014 into the biggest and most successful men’s health movement in Scotland. 

“This is now the time to invest so we continue to not only provide much needed stability and sustainability post-Covid to existing Sheds and developing groups, but we are there to support the new Shed groups which continue to emerge.

“With Scotland having presently only reached 40% of its full potential we have much work ahead of us to be able to support this exponential growth.

“This is incredibly positive where ten years ago there was no solution to engaging voluntarily the large ‘hard to reach’ sector of the population.

“We have successfully brought that to the table and request the required three-year discretionary funding is forthcoming so we can continue to meet the need of this fiscal saving and life enhancing community health empowerment movement.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government funding for men’s sheds has helped the movement to grow from five men’s sheds in 2013 to more than 200 sheds today, with more than 3,000 members.

“The £75,000 provided by Scottish Government this financial year will help the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association build further success as they continue to develop their business model and new funding partners come on board.”

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