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The Scout Association

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For other Scouting organisations in the United Kingdom, see Scouting in the United Kingdom . For other Scouting organisations with the names 'The Scout Association' a part of the name, see The Scout Association (disambiguation).
The Scout Association
The Scout Association logo.svg
The Scout Association logo, featuring the Fleur-de-lis
Headquarters Gilwell Park
Location Chingford
Country United Kingdom
  • * 1910
    • incorporated 1912 [1]
Founder Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
  • * 446,152 youths
    • 104,305 adults (2014)[2]
Chief Scout Bear Grylls
Chief Executive Matt Hyde
President Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Affiliation World Organization of the Scout Movement
 Scouting portal

The Scout Association is the largest Scouting organization in the United Kingdom and the World Organization of the Scout Movement's recognised member for the United Kingdom. Following the origin of Scouting in 1907, The Scout Association was formed in 1910 and incorporated in 1912 by a royal charter under its previous name of The Boy Scouts Association.[1]

The current stated purpose of The Scout Association is to "actively engage and support young people in their personal development, empowering them to make a positive contribution to society".[3] The association achieves this through what it terms the Scout Method and through a youth programme for people aged between 6 and 25.[3][4] The latest published census shows that over 446,000 young people aged 6 to 25 are members of the association,[2] with a further 40,000 young people waiting to join the organization.[5] It is the largest Scout association in Europe, representing 35% of the membership of the European Scout Region.[6]

Girls have been admitted to the association since 1976 when they were first allowed to join the Venture Scouts section for 16- to 20-year-olds. This expanded to the entire organization in 1991; although the decision to admit girls was optional, it has been compulsory since 2007, although religious preferences can be accommodated.[7] According to the latest available census, there are 83,363 female members aged between 6 and 25 and a further 36,565 adult women involved in leadership.[2]

The Scout Association is open to all faiths and variations to the Scout Promise are allowed in order to accommodate those of different religious obligations or national allegiances.[8] Following criticisms of the lack of provision for atheists,[9] in 2012 the association consulted members about the possibility of creating an alternative Promise for those without a religion,[10] and in October 2013, announced that an atheist version of the Promise would be available from January 2014.[11]

The association is headed by the Chief Scout, currently the adventurer and television presenter Bear Grylls, supported by Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt and Chief Executive Matt Hyde (former Chief Executive of the National Union of Students). The association's president is HRH The Duke of Kent and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a patron of the organisation.[12][13][14]

The association is a member of the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services.[15]


Formation of The Scout Association[edit]

Scouting certificate dated December 3, 1914

For the origins of Boy Scouts and the Scout Movement before the formation of The Scout Association see Scouting.

The Boy Scouts Association was formed in 1910,in order to provide a national body in the United Kingdom which could organise and support the rapidly growing number of Scout Patrols and Troops, which had begun to form spontaneously following the publication of Scouting for Boys and The Scout magazine in 1908.[16] It was also the wish of Baden-Powell to wrest control of Scouting from his book's publishers as it was felt the Scout Movement was not given the status it deserved as the publisher C. Arthur Pearson Limited controlled much of Scouting.[16]

1910 to 1920: Growth[edit]

Membership badge of The Boy Scout Association, used prior to 1967.

From its foundation, The Boy Scouts Association began noticing a problem. Originally, Scouting was for boys aged between 11 and 18 and many of the boys also had younger brothers who wanted to participate.[16] There were also many girls who wanted the same thing with Baden-Powell famously encountering a group of "Girl Scouts" at the 1909 Crystal Palace Rally.[16] The solution to the first dilemma was the creation of the younger Wolf Cubs Section, which was trialed from 1914 and openly launched in 1916.[17] However, Edwardian principles could not allow young girls to participate in the rough and tumble, and "wild" activities of the Scouts, and so the Girl Guides were created by Baden-Powell's sister, Agnes, to provide a more "proper" programme of activities.[16] Also, many of those who had grown out of Scouts still wanted to be a part of Scouting resulting in another section, the Rover Scouts, for those over 18 being created in 1918.[16]

Scouting was now becoming a global phenomenon as it spread throughout the British Empire. A Royal Charter was granted by King George V on 4 January 1912 which incorporated The Boy Scouts Association throughout the British Empire and gave it "the purpose of instructing boys of all classes in the principles of discipline loyalty and good citizenship".[1] During the First World War, more than 50,000 Scouts participated in some form of war work on the home front. Scout buglers sounded the "all clear" after air raids, others helped in hospitals and made up aid parcels; Sea Scouts assisted the Coastguard in watching the vulnerable East coast.[18]

The Boy Scouts Association organised the first World Jamboree for Scouts, held in Olympia, London in 1920 together with an international conference for leaders which founded the World Organization of the Scout Movement of which The Boy Scouts Association was a founding member.[16] Baden-Powell continued to guide the Scouts and Girl Guides, going on world tours throughout the rest of his life until ill health caused him to retire to Kenya in 1938 where he died on 8 January 1941.[16]

The Headquarters Gazette was first published in July 1909, as the official publication of the Association for adult Scouters and administrators,[19] alongside The Scout, a magazine for youth members which had been launched in April 1908.[20]

1920 to 1967[edit]

In 1929, the Boy Scouts Association hosted the 3rd World Scout Jamboree at Arrowe Park in Cheshire; some 56,000 Scouts from 35 countries attended, making it the largest World Scout Jamboree to date.[21] The first Gang Show, produced by Ralph Reader, opened at the Scala Theatre in London in October 1932.[22] Following the outbreak of World War II, over 50,000 Scouts trained under the National War Service scheme. Tasks undertaken included police messengers and stretcher bearers.[23] The Air Scout branch was launched in January 1941, allowing Scout Troops to specialise in activities related to aircraft and flying. Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941 and was succeeded as Chief Scout by Lord Somers.[24] Starting in 1944, the Scout International Relief Service (SIRS) sent teams of Rover Scouts and Scouters to continental Europe to provide humanitarian aid; ten SIRS teams worked at the recently relieved Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.[25]

After years of trial schemes, the Senior Scout Section was officially launched in 1946, allowing Boy Scouts aged fifteen to eighteen years to form separate patrols or troops, with age appropriate activities and badges.[26] Scouts were prominent in their support of the 1948 Summer Olympics, playing leading roles in the open and closing ceremonies at Wembley Stadium and the sailing events at Torbay.[27] The first Bob a Job Week was in April 1949, in which Scouts did small tasks for the public in return for a "bob" (5 new pence) to raise funds for the Association and for "starving Europe".[28] In 1957, to commemorate fifty years of Scouting and the centenary of Baden-Powell's birth, the Association hosted the 9th World Scout Jamboree at Sutton Park in Birmingham.[26]

1967 to 2001[edit]

Membership badge of The Scout Association between 1967 and 2003. This logo is still used to represent Scouting as an ideology and on some items for example on the centre of flags.[29]

The Boy Scouts Association and its programmes in Britain went largely unchanged until it underwent a major review in the 1960s. The Chief Scouts' Advance Party was formed in 1964 and was sent to survey the organization to see why membership numbers were falling. Their report was published in 1966 and changes were implemented later that year and throughout 1967.[16] As a result, the name of the organisation was changed to The Scout Association and major changes were made to the sections and their respective programmes.[16] The youngest section were now named Cub Scouts, the Boy Scout section was renamed simply as the Scout section and the Senior Scouts and Rover Scout section was replaced with Venture Scouts for 16 to 20 year olds.[16] The Scout Uniform was also changed with the inclusion of long trousers for the Scouts, as opposed to the compulsory wearing of knee-length shorts, and the wearing of a Beret instead of the Campaign hat.[16]

The Advance Party Report was not welcomed by all members and a rival report, "A Boy Scout Black Paper", was produced in 1970 by "The Scout Action Group".[30] This provided alternative proposals for the development of the organization and asked for Groups that wished to continue to follow Baden-Powell's original scheme to be permitted to do so. The rejection of these proposals resulted in the formation of the Baden-Powell Scouts' Association.[31]

Several developments were made over the following years, including the introduction of co-educational units of boys and girls, initially restricted to the Venture Scouts section in 1976, but from 1991 junior sections were allowed to become mixed as well.[16] Parents involved in Scouting in Northern Ireland also began to organise activities for their children who were too young for Cub Scouts. Originally, only the leaders of the new section, nicknamed Beavers, were members of the association with the youths themselves becoming scouts officially in 1986.[16] In the late 1990s, a Muslim Scout Fellowship was formed, which by the end of 2007, had assisted the establishment of 13 Muslim Scout Groups in England and Wales.[32]

Despite these changes, and many other minor ones, Scouting started to fall into a decline through the 1990s with falling membership levels.[33] This spurred a major review into the causes of the decline in 1999.[34]

2001 to present[edit]

Members of the newly created Explorer Scouts section climbing at Stanage Edge.

Scouting found itself competing for young people's time against many other extracurricular activities and schools themselves which were increasingly venturing into the same types of activities. In addition, adult leaders became concerned with the growing litigation culture in the UK[35] and the negative stereotype as being old fashioned.[36]

Various changes occurred in quick succession following the new millennium. A new uniform, designed by Meg Andrews, was introduced in 2001 that was more modern and practical, with younger sections now wearing sweatshirts and with the shirts now in brighter colours complete with activity trousers.[36][37][38] The following year, the association launched their new vision towards 2012 alongside a new youth programme.[38] Changes included the replacement of the Venture Scouts with Explorer Scouts and the Scout Network, for members aged between 14 and 18 and 18 and 25 respectively, and the introduction of a new awards and badge scheme complete with new badges on topics covering more adventurous activities and modern skills including IT and PR.[38][39] A further change occurred in 2003 when Adult Training was relaunched to be more focused and targeted to the volunteers individual role as opposed to the more general training received before.[38] There was criticism of some of these changes, mostly citing problems with the implementation, although several years into the new structure the Explorer Scout and Scout Network sections have become well established. The new badges drew more mixed reactions from several public figures, with some praising The Scout Association for "moving with the times" and others feeling the changes went "against the Scouting ethos of Baden-Powell".[40]

The organization also began to change in its focus, with it being claimed it was becoming more connected with young people and emphasising the adventure and the approximately 200 activities that can be run within a scouting programme.[36][38] This was seen through publicity materials, the relaunch of national Scout Activity Centres and through the appointments of Chief Scouts Peter Duncan and Bear Grylls in 2004 and 2009 respectively.[36][38][41] Census figures for the last few years show an upturn in membership, with The Scout Association in April 2010 announcing the highest rate of growth in British Scouting since 1972, with total membership reaching just under half a million.[35][42] In 2014, the Association was able to report an increase in youth membership of 100,000 in the ten years since 2004.[5]

The Scout Association also hosted many major events during this time including EuroJam in 2005, hosting 10,000 scouts and guides from 40 countries, the 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007 as well as playing a major role in the centenary celebrations of Scouting that same year, with celebration events organised on Brownsea Island.[38][43]

One of the association's largest current problems is encouraging more adults to volunteer with the scouts to reduce the number of youths currently on waiting lists. This aim was helped when in 2012, the Duchess of Cambridge announced her intention to become a volunteer leader for the association with a group near her Anglesey home.[44] In the decade up to 2014, the number of adult volunteers increased by 14,596 to a total of over 104,000.[5]


List of Chief Scouts for the United Kingdom

The Scout Association is governed by a Council of between 300 and 500 members in accordance with its various Royal Charters. Membership of the Council of the Scout Association is open to the various officers and national commissioners of the Association, together with members nominated by the Scout Counties including young people aged between 18 and 25, together with additional members elected by the Council itself. The Council elects the Chief Scout who is also the chairman of the Council. Bear Grylls is the current Chief Scout after replacing Peter Duncan in July 2009. The Council also elects the Board of Trustees of the Scout Association (formerly called the Committee of the Council), which manages the business of the Association and makes the policy and rules. A UK Chief Commissioner acts as Deputy Chief Scout and appoints a team of Chief Commissioners and UK Commissioners who are responsible for the Scouting programme in their respective fields. The Board of Trustees maintain a professional Headquarters staff who implement the policy of the Association and provide support and services for the "proper conduct and development of Scouting". The Chief Executive is appointed by the Board to manage the work of the Headquarters staff.[45]

The Scout Association is divided into four mainland national groupings: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While Scouting in England is directly managed by the UK Headquarters, each of the other nations has its own Scout Council and administration.[45] Each of national divisions is further broken up into local Counties for England and Northern Ireland, Areas for Wales, Regions for Scotland and a Balliwick in the case of Guernsey, which generally follow the boundaries of the ceremonial counties of Great Britain.[46] The County/Area/Region can then, in most cases, be broken down further into a number of Scout Districts which usually cover a town, some or all of a city or a section of a larger region such as the New Forest.[46] These districts are themselves made up of several Scout Groups.[46]

The Groups are the local organisations for Scouting, and are the direct descendants of the original Scout Patrols. Groups can consist of one or more Beaver Colonies, Cub Packs, and Scout Troops and may also have one or more Scout Active Support Units, or an Explorer Scout Unit attached to it. Scout Groups only manage the first three sections, with Explorer Scouts managed by the Scout District and Scout Networks, including those run within a district, controlled from the County or equivalent. Scout Groups are led by a Group Scout Leader whose main role is handling communication between the local District and the Section Leaders and ensuring the Scout Group meets the minimum standard required by The Scout Association.

At all levels, Scouts are governed by an executive of trustees, known as executive committees[47] – these could be volunteers from the local community who have had ties with Scouting, either themselves or through their children. The executive normally consists of a chairman, secretary, treasurer, and a number of other officers. In Group Executive Committees, Group Scout Leaders and Section Leaders also form part of the committee.[48] Their role is to ensure that the best interests of the young people and the community are served by the Group, District, County, or National organisations.[47]

A Scout parade in Oxford, 2004.

All leaders work as unpaid volunteers,[49] of which there are around 120,000.[50] In addition to this number, the Association employs 198 full-time and part-time staff to support the work of its adult volunteers.[51] Senior volunteers in The Scout Association are called 'Commissioners'. Every County/Area/Region[52][53] and District[54] is headed by a Commissioner who is responsible for ensuring the Districts/Groups under their jurisdiction meet the standards set by The Scout Association. They receive support from Regional Development Officers in England, who are employed by the Regional Development Service and deployed locally to help support The Scout Association's objectives.[55] Commissioners in the other nations receive support from Field Commissioners, employed and directed differently. District Commissioners report to the County/Area/Regional Commissioner, who in turn report to the UK Chief Commissioner.


In the Scout Association, there are five sections to cater for youth aged between 6 and 25 years of age:

Section Ages Controlled by Activities Introduced 2010 Membership[56] 2011 Membership[57] 2012 Membership[58] 2013 Membership[59] 2014 Membership[2]
Beaver Scouts 5¾–8 Group Emphasis on having fun. 1986 108,018 112,058 116,743 118,182 122,645
Cub Scouts 8–10½ Group Introduction to Scoutcraft and activities. 1916 142,904 144,296 147,983 150,825 153,375
Scouts 10½–14 Group Further development of Scouting skills. 1907 117,328 118,462 121,374 122,179 124,714
Explorer Scouts 14–18 District Emphasis on personal challenge and adventure. 2002 34,689 36,346 38,801 40,490 43,043
Scout Network 18–25 County/Area More flexible with greater personal choice. 2002 2,171 2,061 2,092 2,174 2,375*
*In addition, many Scout Network members have adult roles in the Scout Association; including these, the total Scout Network membership is 5,574 for 2014.

The first four sections (Beavers to Explorers) are led by a Section Leader and aided by Assistant Leaders, Sectional Assistants, Occasional Helpers and Young Leaders, who are Explorer Scouts trained in leadership techniques. Scout Networks are mainly member led, but are assisted by a Network Leader who ensures that the Network is working within the rules of the association. In addition to adult leadership, the association encourages its members themselves to take on positions of responsibility for their section meetings. This can be through responsibility for a group of members, such as the Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader in Scouts and Sixers and Seconders in Cubs, or through sectional forums to feedback on programmes. The Scout section also have the role of Senior Patrol Leader, usually someone about to move on to Explorers who overlooks all the patrols, and the members of the Explorer section are openly encouraged to run evenings and to plan their own meetings.

Air and Sea Scouts[edit]

Some Scout Groups belong to separate branches of the scouting programme called Air Scouts and Sea Scouts. Both branches follow the core programme in all Sections but can add more aeronautical or nautical emphasis depending on the branch, with some Group branches choosing to be recognised by the Royal Air Force or Royal Navy. In the United Kingdom there are approximately 400 Sea Scout Groups, of which about 25% (101 Groups) are Royal Navy recognised,[60] whilst of 117 Air Scout Groups, 43 are recognised by the RAF.[61]

Adult roles and appointments[edit]

There are a variety of different appointments and roles that exist for adults. The highest roles in the association are the honorary positions of Patron and President which is taken by the Head of State and a member of the Royal Family respectively, currently Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Kent.

Below these are the members of UK Headquarters including the Chief Scout, who is honorary head of Scouting in the UK and the public face of scouting, and the UK Chief Commissioner, who is in charge of the volunteers in the organization and of the other commissioners. Below these are the Commissioners for the Nations, Regions, Counties, Areas and Districts all of whom are assisted by deputies and assistant commissioners who can oversee and advise on a particular area of responsibility - for example an Assistant District Commissioner for Beaver Scouts particularly ensures that that section in the district is abiding to the Scout Association's rules. The final managerial role in the organization is that of the Group Scout Leader and their Assistant, who are both in charge of a local scout group. All of these roles are uniformed and for those volunteer roles from County level downwards training is required in the basic values of Scouting, safety and child protection, inclusion and advanced managerial skills to achieve their Wood Badge.

At the local sectional level, a section is run by a Scout Leader, who is in overall charge of the section, and by Assistant Scout Leaders, who assist the Leader in their role. These roles are uniformed and also require training to achieve their Wood Badge, although their training content consists of the basic values of Scouting, safety and child protection, inclusion, camping and scout skills and administration. They are also required to complete First Aid every three years.

Below leaders are the uniformed role of Sectional Assistant and the non-uniformed role of Occasional Helper. The Sectional Assistant has to complete basic training consisting of the values of scouting, safety and child protection only while an occasional helper is a non-uniformed role and requires only to have a criminal records check by the Disclosure and Barring Service. In addition, there are Young Leaders who must complete training in child protection and safety and then have the option to complete further modules on topics that mirror the adult training programme.

Adults can also become members of Scout Active Support Units that provide a variety of services to Scouting at Group, District or County/Area level. These units allow adults to support Scouting activities without having the full-time commitment of a leadership role.[62]

Programme, badges and awards[edit]


The current youth programme has been developed from Baden-Powell's original Scout training scheme, which aimed to encourage personal achievement and provide a framework for the activities of the Scout Troop. In the Boy Scout section, this consisted of the award of badges for Tenderfoot, Second and First Class Scout and finally King's Scout, which were earned by passing tests in a wide variety of skills associated with the outdoors, health and good citizenship.[63] With the creation of the Wolf Cub section in 1916, a similar system was devised, the awards being Tenderpad, First Star and Second Star, and an award called the Leaping Wolf was added later which required Cubs to move up to the Scout Troop.[64] In parallel with this scheme, Cubs and Scouts were able to earn Proficiency Badges for specific skills and hobbies, an idea that Baden-Powell probably copied from Ernest Thompson Seton.[65] The test requirements for Baden-Powell's scheme were revised in 1944 and again in 1958 without altering the basic structure.[66]

The 1966 Advance Party Report recommended a wholly new Progressive Training Scheme; for Cub Scouts the Bronze, Silver and Gold Arrows, for Scouts the Scout Standard, Advanced Scout Standard and Chief Scout's Award and for the new Venture Scout Section, the Venture Award and the Queen's Scout Award which focussed on long-term service and commitment as well as the completion of an expedition lasting four days and fifty miles. These changes were implemented in October 1967.[67] From then on, the programme has been subject to regular revision; the Scout standards were replaced in 1984 by the Scout Award, Pathfinder Award and Explorer Award with a fully revised Chief Scout's Award. The Cub arrows were replaced in 1991 with the Cub Scout Award, Adventure Award and Adventure Crest Award. All these awards were replaced following the introduction of the Programme Review in February 2002. A new concept called the Balanced Programme replaced the previous scheme. Challenge Awards could be earned by participating in activities in various Programme Zones such as outdoors, fitness, community or international. Earning a certain number of Challenge Awards and the completion of a personal challenge led to the Bronze Chief Scout's Award for Beavers, Silver for Cubs and Gold for Scouts. Proficiency Badges were revised and renamed Activity Badges.[68] In 2015, the programme was revised again following consultation within the movement, the changes being called the Programme Refresh.[69]

The Queen's Scout Award badge.

The current award scheme[edit]

The previous Programme Zones have been replaced by three themes, being "outdoor and adventure", "world" and "skills". It is recommended for all sections that about 50% of the programme be devoted to outdoor and adventure skills and activities. The structure of Challenge Badges and Chief Scout's Awards has been retained but the content has been revised and made "more challenging". Beavers have to earn six Challenge Badges to Gain the Bronze Chief Scout's Award, Cubs seven for the Silver and Scouts nine for the Gold.[70] The final three awards, The Chief Scout's Platinum and Diamond Awards and the Queen's Scout Award are available in the Explorer Scout and Scout Network sections. The awards mirror the requirements of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award at Bronze, Silver and Gold level respectively, consisting of a period of time volunteering in the local community, a prolonged physical activity, the advancement of a skill and the undertaking an expedition, allowing a participant to achieve both the DofE and the Scout award at the same time. In addition, these three awards do not have to be completed in order, and participants can skip straight to a specific award, although additional work is involved. Achieving the Queen's Scout Award is seen as a significant event on a national scale; recipients of the award are invited to join the St George's Day service at Windsor Castle the year after completing the scheme, and parade before the Queen.

Promise and law[edit]

The Scout Promise is made by all members of The Scout Association from the Scout section upwards, including Leaders:[71]

On my honour, I promise that I will do my best,
To do my duty to God and to the Queen,
To help other people,
And to keep the Scout Law.

Additional variations of the promise are used for different faiths or for members from other countries, whose allegiance is pledged to the country and not the monarch. For the two younger sections, a simpler promise is used: Cub Scouts utilise the normal promise with the omission of the opening 'On my honour' and a change in the final line "to keep the Cub Scout Law", while beaver scouts use a different promise altogether:

I promise to do my best,
To be kind and helpful,
And to love God.

In addition to the promise, there is a Scout Law which dictates what qualities a scout should hold. The Scout Law is as follows:

  1. A Scout is to be trusted.
  2. A Scout is loyal.
  3. A Scout is friendly and considerate.
  4. A Scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts.
  5. A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
  6. A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
  7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.

This law is used for all sections except Cubs and Beavers. Beaver Scouts have no law, as these values are to be demonstrated through the meetings themselves. The Cub Scout law is different again:

Cub scouts always do their best,
think of others before themselves
and do a good turn every day.

The motto of the Scout Association, and of scouting as a whole, is 'Be Prepared'. These were explained in the original Scouting books and was expanded in a series of promotional posters for the sections in the early 2000s.

Variations of the promise[edit]

There are permitted variations to accommodate those whose faith or national allegiance give rise to problems with the wording of the "core" Scout Promise. The Scout Association expects that the phrases "...duty to God‟ and " love God" will suitable for most faiths "including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs". Muslims who have difficulty with the phrase "On my honour" because of the Islamic proscription of swearing oaths, are able to say "In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful…" instead if they prefer. Also, "...duty to Allah and to the Queen" may be used. Hindus and Buddhists may promise "...duty to my Dharma".[72]

Foreign nationals resident in the United Kingdom are able to promise to do their "...duty to God and to the country in which I am now living", although British subjects must include the Queen in their promise.[72]

In 2012 the Scout Association reviewed its fundamentals and launched a consultation to ask its members whether an alternative version of the Scout Promise should be developed for atheists and those unable to make the existing commitment.[73] In 2013 it was announced that the consultation had led to the addition of an alternative promise for humanists and atheists.[74] Taking effect on January 1, 2014, members can choose to replace "duty to God" with "to uphold our Scout values". The change has been welcomed by representatives of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Free Churches Group and the British Humanist Association.[75] The alternative promise takes the following form:

On my honour, I promise that I will do my best,
To uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen,
To help other people,
And to keep the Scout Law.


One of Baden-Powell's drawings for Scouting for Boys published in 1908, showing his original concept for the Scout uniform.


In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell recommended a distinctive and practical uniform that was "very like the uniform worn by my men when I commanded the South African Constabulary".[76] This in turn, seems to have been derived from the dress adopted by Baden-Powell in the Second Matabele War of 1896, influenced by his friend and colleague, Frederick Russell Burnham.[77] The original Boy Scout uniform consisted of a khaki shirt and shorts, a neckerchief or "scarf", campaign hat and a Scout staff. At the formation of the Wolf Cub section in 1916, Baden-Powell wanted to make the younger boys totally distinct from the older Boy Scouts; the result was a green woollen jersey, shorts, neckerchief and a green cricket cap with gold piping.[78] In 1946, the new Senior Scout section were allowed to wear a maroon beret instead of the hat; a green beret became an option for the Boy Scout section in 1954.[26]

Wolf Cub uniform in 1960.

In 1966, the Advance Party Report recommended a total redesign and modernisation of the uniform, commenting that there had been much criticism of "the Boer War appearance of our uniforms" and that the "wearing of shorts by members of the Movement is one of the most damaging aspects of our present public image".[79] Although the Cub uniform barely changed, retaining short trousers, the Scout section were to wear a long sleeved dark green shirt and long trousers in a brownish colour described as "mushroom". Venture Scouts and male Scouters had identical khaki shirts and mushroom trousers, but the neckerchief was replaced by a tie, brown for Venture Scouts and green for Scouters. Female Scouters had a dark green dress and a cap similar to those worn my airline flight attendants at the time.[80] These recommendations were accepted and implemented from October 1967.[81] Later amendments included khaki shirts for female Venture Scouts and Scouters, the abolition of all uniform headgear except Sea Scout caps and Air Scout berets, and black long trousers for Cubs as an option to shorts. A grey sweatshirt was introduced for the new Beaver Scout section and a dark green sweatshirt replaced the Cubs' knitted jersey. In 2001, following a consultation process within the association, a new range of uniforms designed by Meg Andrews was launched on Founder's Day, 22 February.[82]

Current uniforms[edit]

Beaver Scouts[edit]

Beaver Scout uniform consists of a turquoise sweatshirt, a neckerchief and woggle, and the option of navy blue combat trousers, known officially as "activity trousers". A skirt, activity shorts, a polo shirt and a grey fleece jacket are also available options.

Cub Scouts[edit]

Cub Scout uniform consists of a dark green sweatshirt, a neckerchief and woggle, and navy blue activity trousers. A skirt, activity shorts, a polo shirt and a grey fleece jacket are available as options.

Explorer Scouts from Northern Ireland at the 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007, wearing either activity shorts or the Irish saffron kilt.


The uniform for Scouts is the same as for Cub Scouts, with the exception that a long-sleeved shirt of a blue-green colour, described as "teal", is the main part of the uniform. Scouts in Scotland or Northern Ireland may wear a kilt. Sea Scout uniform is as for Scouts, but with either a navy blue jersey or a light blue shirt as the main part of the uniform. Headgear is a seaman's cap with a "Sea Scout" tally band. Air Scouts wear a light blue shirt as the main part of the uniform and headgear is a blue-grey beret.

Explorer Scouts[edit]

As for Scouts, but with a beige shirt as the main part of the uniform. A navy blue tie is an option to the neckerchief. Explorer Sea Scouts and Explorer Air Scouts wear a light blue shirt, with either a white-topped officer's peaked cap or a blue-grey beret respectively.

Adult members[edit]

As for Explorer Scouts, but with a shirt of a light khaki colour, described as "stone". Adult members attached to Sea or Air Scout Groups or Units wear identical uniforms to Sea and Air Explorer Scouts.[37]


The Scout Association is a Registered Charity.[83] The Association's finances are collected through a variety of ways. Members pay for scouting through an annual capitation and subs, paid termly, monthly or weekly depending on local preference. Capitation pays for member insurance and for the services and leader support provided by their district, country (or equivalent) and headquarters. Subs is instead used to pay for the day-to-day running of activities, pay for materials and to finance to section's meeting place.

To lessen the burden on members, many Groups undertake local fundraising and utilise additional methods of funding, such as Gift Aid. In addition, headquarters operates several other ventures open to those outside of scouting, the profits of which are returned to scouting.

Scout Community Week[edit]

Scout Community Week is the only current campaign of the association and the biggest national fundraising event. A revival and update of the earlier "Bob-a-job" scheme, in which Scouts were paid a shilling for doing work for local residents, Scout Community Week involves scouts from all sections of the organization taking part in community work in exchange for a donation to the group. Re-introduced in 2012, the event frequently attracts media attention usually due the high profile nature of some projects.[84]

Commercial ventures[edit]

The Scout Association operates several outside ventures that offer an enhancement to the scout programme but also services for users outside scouting. These are:

  • Scout Shops Ltd - sells Scouting uniform, equipment and gifts online and on the high street. In 2012, it had a turnover of £7.2 million, of which their taxable profits of £2.2 million was donated to the Scout Association.[58] The association also has a related subsidiary World Scout Shop Ltd which sells similar merchandise to a global market as well as world scouting specific items. It was created in 2011 at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden and had a turnover of £0.285 million and a taxable profit of £0.164 million which was donated to the Scout Association.[58]
  • Scout Insurance Services Ltd trading as Unity - offers insurance solutions bespoke for the requirements of scouting activities. In 2012 it had a turnover of £1.2 million and a profit after tax of £0.4 million which was donated to the association.[58] There is also a similarly aimed and named subsidiary in Guernsey which contributed £600,000 in 2012.[58]
  • Scout Activity Centres - operates a national network of camp sites and activity centres. The Scout Association also runs the conference centres at Gilwell Park and at Baden-Powell House.[85]
  • Scout Holiday Homes Trust - operates ten properties across the UK catering for those with disabilities, or those whose income usually prohibits a holiday.[85][86]
  • Scouting Magazine - sells advertising space in its free bi-monthly magazine.[87] The publication had a circulation in 2013 of 116,707.[88]


Gilwell Park's White House, the centre of the Scout Activity Centre and UK Headquarters of the association.

Across the country, over 900 campsites are owned by the Scout Association; usually they are owned and operated by a Scout District or County.[89] These campsites are also used by others outside the organisation and gains additional income for the scout county or district. However, ten different sites are run directly from the national levels of the Scout Association.

Seven sites are branded and operated as Scout Activity Centres, providing camping sites and adventurous activities alongside. These seven are Gilwell Park on the London/Essex border, Crawfordsburn in County Down, Downe in Kent, Ferny Crofts in the New Forest, Great Tower in the Lake District, Hawkhirst in Northumberland, Woodhouse Park in Gloucestershire, Youlbury in Oxfordshire and Yr Hafod in Snowdonia.

In addition to these sites, the Scout Association runs two conference centres, one within Gilwell Park, and another at a separate site in central London, Baden-Powell House. Baden-Powell House is also a scouting hostel, providing cheap scout accommodation for central London trips.[90]

Youth Commissioner[edit]

In 2014, The Scout Association created the role of Youth Commissioner and Deputy Youth Commissioner.[91] The Youth Commissioner works with the national leadership team, to advocate on behalf of youth members.[91] Hannah Kentish was appointed as YC and Jagz Bharth and Jay Thompson were appointed as deputies.[91][92]

Relations with other organisations[edit]

Girlguiding UK[edit]

The Scout Association and Girlguiding UK are separate organisations, but were both founded by Robert Baden-Powell and share similar aims and methods. Co-operation between Scouting and Guiding is encouraged at all levels.[93] "Joint Groups" of Scout and Guide units meeting separately in the same headquarters and operating under the same support structure are recognized and encouraged by both associations. It is also possible to have a "Joint Unit", which may consist of Rainbow Guides and Beaver Scouts, or Brownie Guides and Cub Scouts, or Guides and Scouts. They meet together as a single unit, sharing leadership and facilities but individual members wear the uniform and follow the training programme of the association that they belong to.[94] Members of Girlguiding UK are invited to join the United Kingdom Scout Contingent to participate in the World Scout Jamborees every four years.[95]

Scouting Ireland[edit]

The Scout Association of Northern Ireland co-exists in the province with Scouting Ireland which is the World Organisation of the Scout Movement recognized association for the Republic of Ireland. The two associations have been increasingly working in partnership; they jointly run a project called "Scoutlink" which delivers citizenship and peace building programmes with a range of groups in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic.[96]

Notable former Scouts[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of Scouts.

The Scout Association has had many notable members in the past, with the following selection being the best known:

The Scout Association overseas[edit]


Following the origin of Scouting, Scout organisations formed in many parts of the British Empire. Some of these organisations later became branches of The Boy Scouts Association after its formation. In other cases, The Boy Scouts Association started branches itself in parts of British Empire. The Boy Scouts Association's "Headquarters" in London was renamed "Imperial Headquarters" (IHQ).[103] The Boy Scouts International Bureau was formed in 1920 and became fully functional as part of the World Association of the International Scout Movement in 1922. Subsequently, The Boy Scouts Association branches in the Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and South Africa were given the option of being "separately represented" with the Boy Scouts International Bureau, but chose instead to remain under IHQ control. Over time, many of the branches of The Scout Association became direct members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement; for instance, Scouts Canada in 1946[104] and The Scout Association of Hong Kong in 1977.[105]

Current overseas branches[edit]

The Scout Association is currently responsible for Scouting in the British overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, as well as some small independent nations.[106] Non-sovereign territories with Scouting run by The Scout Association include:

Sovereign countries with Scouting run by The Scout Association, as they are without independent Scouting organisations, include:

The British Scout programme is also offered to British citizens living outside of the United Kingdom via the British Scouting Overseas (BSO) Area. BSO has Scout "Districts" in France & Iberia, Benelux & Scandinavia, Germany, Middle East and Rest of the World [107]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Block, Nelson R.; Proctor, Tammy M. (2009). Scouting Frontiers: Youth and the Scout Movement's First Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 1-4438-0450-9. 

External links[edit]