Scotland’s rural MPs are being urged to back a campaign to give village halls a voice in Parliament.
The SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations) is supporting a drive by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on village halls.
The campaign has already won the support of 27 English MPs – but needs the backing of MSPs to help the APPG become a reality.
There are 2,000 rural community buildings and village halls in Scotland, plus a further 10,000 in England – managed by a combined army of around 100,000 volunteers.
"The humble village hall needs a champion – historically they are an important part of our rural heritage but in the current climate they are being forgotten in the Government’s drive for social enterprise"
SCVO Rural Development Officer Sandra Hogg said: “These buildings play a very important role in rural communities, providing a wide range of leisure, health, social and cultural activities. They increasingly provide local services such as Post Offices or cafés and are important focal points for the local community.
“However, village hall volunteers are often struggling with red-tape, loss of funding and the demands of managing a building.
“Management committees have difficulties recruiting and retaining volunteers, many of whom are elderly, and some of the buildings are in poor condition, leading to a decline in use.
“An APPG would be a great opportunity to champion village halls and other community buildings which are vital to our rural communities. It could help target appropriate funding and support to allow them to deliver a range of services.”
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: “Village halls have a great ally in the many thousands of voluntary groups across the UK. Indeed, village halls are themselves labours of love for volunteers and dedicated local residents country-wide.
“I welcome the involvement of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations in the campaign to recognise the contribution that village halls make to local communities throughout the country.
“Many MPs representing rural areas recognise the importance of village halls and I will be drumming up more support for the APPG on Village Halls in months ahead.”
ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer Deborah Clarke said: “The humble village hall needs a champion – historically they are an important part of our rural heritage but in the current climate they are being forgotten in the Government’s drive for social enterprise
“An APPG for village halls is a brilliant idea as it would allow campaign groups, charities, and other non-governmental organisations to become involved in discussions and influence politicians.”
Any Scottish MP who is interested in joining an APPG for village halls should contact Malcolm Venning, Richard Bacon’s Westminster Assistant on 0207 219 5367 or Deborah Clarke at ACRE on 01285 653477.