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WATCH: Minister confirms financial support for the Aberdeenshire headquartered Scottish Men’s Shed Association

By David Porter

The Scottish government has agreed to fund the country's largest men's mental health charity amid continuing uncertainty over its financial stability.

The Scottish Men's Sheds Association (SMSA) which is headquartered in Banchory helps set up independent sheds in local communities where men can take part in activities and enjoy the company of others - all designed to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Having started in Westhill in 2013 and there are now over 200 sheds across Scotland, with the Inverurie group set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this month, Ellon having just held one of its popular open days and others such as Aberchirder, Turriff and Macduff all seeing increased community engagement through their activities.

Aberchirder Mens Shed has become a focal point for community enagegment. Picture: David Porter
Aberchirder Mens Shed has become a focal point for community enagegment. Picture: David Porter

Local branches of Men's Sheds are run by volunteers and are not as such directly affected in their day to day running by the situation.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley Anne Somerville announced the funding for this financial year but would not confirm plans for future years.

Scottish Labour MSP Paul O'Kane who posed the question to the cabinet secretary said: “Instead of receiving funding on time the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association was made to wait anxiously for an answer about its own future from the Scottish government. I want to see the Scottish government go further than it did today by coming forward with a plan for sustainable long term funding. The Men’s Sheds Association and other third sector organisations can’t plan for or invest in any long-term projects if they don’t have that guarantee of sustainable funding."

SMSA CEO Jason Schroeder said: ““The government grant in 2016 of £75,000 was an initial start-up grant for the charity which supported, at that time, five Sheds and developing the movement across Scotland. Unfortunately, that amount has never been increased as the movement grew and we immediately sought other grant funders. However, now post pandemic and with men needing more support than ever, we now require £360,000 per annum to deliver our development plans and support to over 200 Sheds across Scotland.”

He continued: “With the growing and highest male suicide rates in Scotland – out of the whole of the UK – we require the Scottish Government to once and for all fully commit and get behind the most successful men’s health preventative model created in Scotland so the SMSA, the movement and the people of Scotland never end up in this situation again. We applaud the First Minister’s financial support statement today and welcome talks with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP to further discuss our vital work through this men’s health and wellbeing model being carried out successfully across Scotland.”

Andrew Bowie, MP for the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency which includes SMSA's Banchory HQ, wrote to First Minister John Swinney about the subject in his first days in office.

He said: “This is a welcome but overdue change of heart by the SNP, who were first warned about the massive value of Men’s Sheds more than a year ago, when a one-year deal was put together. But another ad-hoc arrangement isn’t good enough for a vital organisation that has 10,000 members across Scotland. The lack of thought put into the future of men’s mental health is representative of the SNP’s priorities. That’s why I wrote to John Swinney last week — to get his eye on the ball. The next step is to identify a portfolio within the Scottish Government to hammer out SMSA’s long-term future.”

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