HELENSBURGH’S Police Scotland Young Volunteers group may be one of the youngest in the country – but they already have many qualities that would make them the envy of plenty of their longer-established counterparts.

A 91 per cent attendance rate during the 12 weeks of their basic training is one. A bulging events diary, and the rapidly increasing public profile that comes with it, is another. And a third is the array of significant figures who attended the group’s recent passing out parade.

The 24 young people who comprise the Helensburgh group received their certificates from former Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith at a ceremony at Hermitage Academy, at which they were inspected by Commodore Bob Anstey, the Royal Navy’s assistant chief of staff for submarines at HM Naval Base Clyde.

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Also present were Sergeant John Baxter, who leads the Police Scotland Young Volunteers (PSYV) initiative at a national level, as well as senior police officers from Helensburgh and the wider Argyll and West Dunbartonshire policing division.

Few, though, were quite as proud of the new PSYV recruits’ achievements than the adult volunteers who led them through those 12 weeks of training – in particular Constable Stephen Carr, the youth engagement officer for Helensburgh and Lomond and the co-ordinator of Helensburgh’s PSYV group.

“They worked so hard for it throughout the 12 weeks of their training,” Stephen said.

“Our group was formed in January, and I wanted them deployable by the summer, because we all know how busy the summer is in this area.

“We sat them down and said ‘we’re going to do this every week for 12 weeks’ – and we got a 91 per cent attendance rate.

“And it was a special night. They’d all worked really hard, and it showed. As adult volunteers we couldn’t have been prouder of them.”

That basic training included instruction in drill, uniforms, a code of conduct, introduction to a rank structure, use of police-issue notebooks and radios, first aid training, and fun activities such as visits to HM Naval Base Clyde, which included sampling their dry ski slope, meeting the Ministry of Defence Police’s dog branch, and a trip on the MDP’s £1.2 million patrol boat.

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It also included a ‘riot night’ – a basic introduction to the use of shields and defending against some simple weapons.

But the PSYV movement, in a similar fashion to the Army Cadets, Young Firefighters and other uniformed youth organisations, isn’t about training up the next generation of Scotland’s police officers.

“It’s not about new recruits to the police,” Stephen continued.

“While we do teach them some useful aspects of police work – discipline, smart uniform, notebooks, radios and so on – that’s not what it’s about.

“We do have some volunteers who have an interest in the police, and we will encourage that and bring that on. But it’s their decision what they want to do at the end of the day – joining the police is not something we actively go out and encourage.

“With the old police cadets set-up, if you joined the cadets between the age of 15 and 18 and then joined the police, your time in the cadets counted towards your years of police service. That’s not the case with PSYV.

“Like any form of volunteering in the community for young people, it’s about enhancing their future prospects.”

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Another boast for Helensburgh is that while PSYV groups in some other communities attend perhaps three or four events a month, the Helensburgh volunteers already have a packed events diary.

“We’re almost full for the whole year,” Stephen said. “We were at the Helensburgh and Lomond Highland Games at the beginning of June, Garelochhead’s D-Day event for veterans, the Rotary Club’s board walk and a lot more.

“We’ve been approached by the Winter Festival and by the organisers of the Stand Up To Cancer family festival about having a presence at those events, and we’ve been invited to Braehead shopping centre, Disney On Ice, and even to the Solheim Cup golf tournament at Gleneagles in September.

“And we’re hoping that the more we do, the more we’ll be approached.

“Having 24 youths available to volunteer is amazing. We have an app we use to find out availability of our volunteers – if I post an event there and ask for nine volunteers, I can be sure I’ll get 15 putting their names forward.

“One of the lads said to me ‘I’ve applied for everything’, which is amazing – though everyone will get a fair shot.”

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That enthusiasm is just one of many ways Stephen has seen the group develop since that initial meeting back in January.

“They’ve changed so much,” he said.

“The first visible physical change you see is them getting their uniforms, but you soon see changes in the way they behave and interact with each other.

“Some of them sat on their own back on that first night and didn’t really interact with anyone. But the way they now interact not just with themselves but with the public – younger children at the Highland Games, or veterans in Garelochhead on the D-Day anniversary – is great to see.

“They feel responsible, and that makes them grow up. They’re so much more confident in their own abilities.”

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The PSYV group in Helensburgh is now full up, and – assuming they stick with the programme – the group’s 24 volunteers will remain with the programme until they reach the age of 18.

“Then they can leave or they can become an adult volunteer,” Stephen added.

“Four members of our group are now 16, and that means I’m going to be able to work with this group of young people for at least the next two years.

“I think that’s going to make a big difference for us and for Helensburgh.

“One of the other PSYV units nearby needed to re-recruit quite early on, but my oldest volunteer was aged 15 when we started, and keeping the unit together is really going to benefit us as a group, just like a football manager who is able to work with a steady squad.”

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In addition to having a public presence at local events, the PSYV group is also busy thinking of ways they can raise money in order, eventually, to become a self-sustaining group.

“The initial cost of uniforms for our 24 cadets was funded by PSYV at a national level,” Stephen continued.

“There are 44 PSYV groups across Scotland, and all 44 were given £600 towards the cost of their uniforms.

“That’s fantastic to have that support, but any funds we need on an ongoing basis we have to raise ourselves. We took them to a Glasgow Rocks game as a reward night, for example, and spent £200 on a coach. That’s why we need to raise funds.

“We provide our services completely free. We don’t take subscriptions – we run a small tuck shop on meeting nights and raise a small amount of money that way.

“Rotary have been of really great assistance to us, but the question of how we raise funds is just as important for us as what events we can attend to raise our profile.”

To find out more about the PSYV group in Helensburgh, and to see whether the group can offer a helping hand at your community event, drop Stephen an email on stephen.carr@scotland.pnn.police.uk.