YMCA Scotland

Scotland – National Council of YMCAs

Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1848*Membership Status: Full Member
Full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: 1905

*In 1824, David Nasmith founded a society of young men with the name: ‘Glasgow Young Men’s Society for Religious Improvement’. In 1839 a citizen of Glasgow, Patrick Gentleman started a series of classes for young people, it was called the ‘Glasgow Young Men’s Institute’, after a visit of George Williams in 1848, it took the name ‘Young Men’s Christian Association’ (extr. from: History of the World Alliance of Young Men’s Christian Associations / C.P. Shedd.- London: SPCK, 1955.- pp.10,11)

Brief YMCA History

The Scottish National Union of Young Men’s Christian Associations and Fellowship Unions and Associations’ as the national body was named, tells something of the movement’s history in Scotland. Before the name YMCA became known, there had been societies for the religious improvement of young men. The best known ones were those established in Glasgow (1824), Paisley (1832) and Greenock (1839). The growth of the movement included both the founding of new fellowship associations and unions of them, and the affiliation of those already in existence. The fellowship associations were basically religious meetings; in some places they included a wider range of activities.

The first Scottish National Conference was held in 1868. In 1874 a National Executive Committee was formed and in 1880 it appointed its full-time staff member. There has never been any constitutional link with the YMCAs in England, Wales and Ireland. The Scottish YMCA pressed for 27 years for direct affiliation to the World Alliance and succeeded in 1905. The four National Councils in the United Kingdom were linked, and continue to be linked through an Inter-Council’s Committee.

The effect of the two world wars and the growth of church-based youth activities has altered the nature of the Scottish movement radically. Some of the major programme activities have included special courses for school leavers and for young people in the early years of employment.

The Scottish National Council of YMCAs, recently re-named YMCA Scotland, is composed of members who are elected directly from the 37 related local associations. The National Council meets three times per year and appoints its Executive and all Standing Committees.

YMCA Scotland acts as a central support resource for the network of local associations across the country. It’s activity is therefore largely shaped by that of the local associations.

Current emphasis in youth work includes leadership training (for the benefit of both the community and the YMCA). There have been increasing efforts to assure more active participation of young people in decision making.

YMCA Scotland is responsible for the development of new associations and offers an interim affiliation status to interested groups which are not yet ready for full local association recognition. A major employment training/personal development franchise is operated by YMCA Scotland in partnership with Prince’s Trust Scotland in eight centres across the country. Other key areas of work include promotion of the YMCAs Christian ethos and the development of youth work practice within and outside the movement.

The YMCA Scotland budget is covered by local YMCA support, YMCA Scotland operations, government grants, contributions, and other sources.

Mission Statement

The mission of the YMCA in Scotland is to provide and support quality programmes aimed at physical, social, mental and spiritual development, especially for young people, to enable their development and growth, wholeness and maturity in Christ and contribution to the wider community.
Developed from the Mission Statement are 10 key working objectives for 2000-2003:

1. Spiritual Development
To provide opportunities for young people to explore the issue of spirituality and to enable their own spiritual development; to ensure that the Christian ethos is maintained and developed throughout the life and work of the YMCA in Scotland.

2. Youth Development
To enable the personal growth and development of young people and their involvement throughout the life and work of the movement.

3. People Development
To ensure programmes, training and a style of work that encourages the personal growth and development of people of all ages including staff, volunteers, members and users.

4. Communication
To ensure information flow within the movement and with outside individuals and bodies

5. Vision and Strategic Planning
To encourage and facilitate visionary thinking and future planning at all levels of the movement.

6. Networking
To maintain and develop working relationships with appropriate outside bodies to facilitate work with young people throughout the movement.

7. Resources
To ensure adequate resources available to meet the needs of the work of YMCA Scotland and to support Local Associations in resource development

8. Local Association Development
To encourage and support the development of the work of Local Associations.

9. Organisation Development
To ensure efficient and effective organisational strictures at all levels within YMCA Scotland.

10. Quality Assessment
To facilitate the quality assessment process and review at all levels of work within the YMCA in Scotland.

Main Programmes

The YMCA has 37 local Associations and the programmes of each respond to the needs of young people in their local communities. Much of the focus of work however, is with disadvantaged young people and those deemed to be at risk. The main areas of YMCA programme in Scotland are:
Detached/Street based youth work
Over recent years the YMCA has come to be recognised as one of the main detached youth work providers in Scotland. Detached or street based youth work aims to meet the needs and interest of young people on the streets rather than in purpose built community centres. In some cases this work includes the provision of specialist housing, drug and alcohol advice and information services.
Supported accommodation and housing services
Several YMCAs offer housing support to young people including emergency housing, supported accommodation units, independent living skills training, counselling and support services and information and advice. One of the local associations also provides emergency accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees.

Youth cafes
Several YMCAs have drop-in youth cafes, providing a safe environment where young people can meet, take part in programmes of activities and become involved in the running and management of the café.

Princes Trust Volunteers
The YMCA in Scotland is one of the largest providers of a UK wide personal development programme for young people called Princes Trust Volunteers. A combination of employed and unemployed young people aged 16 – 25 participate in a 12 week programme, working as a team undertaking new experiences and challenges. The programme aims to provide opportunities for young people to increase confidence and develop new skills.

Child care programmes
Many YMCAs provide pre-school childcare facilities and before & after-school care programmes. These programmes enable parents to return to full time employment or education knowing that their child will be taken to school and met after school and cared for by YMCA staff.

Health & Fitness
Health and fitness is a growing area of business within some YMCAs with quality facilities providing fully fitted gyms and instructor led fitness sessions.
Rural Development
YMCA Scotland is committed to supporting the development of new youth work in rurally isolated areas. Two full time staff have responsibility for this development and for supporting the YMCAs in these rural areas.

Residential Centres
The YMCA has two residential centres one providing holiday and conference facilities and the other operating as a youth development centre, focusing primarily on work with disadvantaged individuals and groups of young people.
Youth Leadership
A new YMCA programme has been developed to encourage and support young people in YMCA decision making and management process. This programme includes four residential training weekends and an ongoing programme of mentor support.
International programmes
Young people continue to participate in many international YMCA opportunities through exchange programmes, European seminars and EAY youth events.

Address – National Office

National General Secretary: Kerry Reilly
E-mail: info@ymcascotland.org


YMCA of Scotland
Aberdeen YMCA
Glasgow YMCA 
Paisley YMCA