THE traditional view of Scouts may be of boys singing Ging Gang Goolie around campfires or working for their wood whittling badge, but the youth organisation is shedding that fusty old Edwardian image with a huge recruitment drive among girls and members of ethic communities.

New figures from The Scout Association Scotland show girls and children from ethnic minority background are flocking to sign up.

Up until 1976, the Scouts were an exclusively male affair, but females account for nearly half - 47% - of the 1400 new Scouts who have joined since last year.

Loading article content

And nearly 16% were youngsters from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.

Overall, there are now more than 44,000 Scouts north of the Border, with an increase of 3.3% over the past year and membership growing at a faster rate than in the rest of the UK.

The organisation was founded by Army officer Robert Baden-Powell more than a century ago: today the Chief Scout is adventurer and TV personality Bear Grylls.

Alongside traditional activities such as cycling and hillwalking, badges can now be earned for knowledge about space and fundraising for charities.

Abdul Cathcart, a leader of the First ­Glasgow Scout Group - the first Scout group in the world to be registered - said he believed Grylls had helped changed the profile of Scouting, with many youngsters wanting the opportunity to experience outdoor activities.

"It is no longer a Christian military ­Baden-Powell picture, it is a picture of Bear Grylls out in the wilderness jumping out of helicopters and ascending cliffs," he said.

"I think that is one of the things that has led to an overall interest in Scouting again.

"Once people then look into what the Scouts are offering, they see a very balanced programme of activities."

Unlike the Girl Guides, which scrapped all mention of God from its pledge last year, the Scouts have stuck with the "core" promise of young people pledging "to do my duty to God and to the Queen".

But now those who do not have a religious faith can take an alternative version by promising to uphold "Scout values".

Cathcart, a 42-year-old dental surgeon who has been a leader for five years, said he remembered a lot more "marching and procession" when he was a Scout.

He said the movement was very diverse and inclusive, which had helped attract more Scouts from ethnic communities and more female members.

"When you go to the international camps, you can see in a camp field they have built a mosque next to a church," he said.

"Cooking on open fires, building rafts and getting to make survival shelters outside - these are things the girls enjoy as much as the boys and they have found by coming into a very inclusive movement, they have been able to participate and get to do all these things."

Graham Haddock, chief commissioner of The Scout Association Scotland, said: "This year, girls accounted for 47% of our youth member growth, and 15.5% of overall growth was in BME communities. This is hugely encouraging. It suggests that we are becoming more inclusive and better reflective of the communities in which we live.

"I believe that it undoubtedly shows that we really have something to offer all our members; the numbers simply wouldn't keep going up if we didn't."

But he added: "We still have a long list of young people waiting to join. We need more volunteers to be able to give them this opportunity."