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Politics: Individual volunteering efforts are crucial for our communities


By Kyle Ritchie

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Regular readers will know I am a strong critic of the way that the UK Parliament often goes about its business, writes MP Richard Thomson.

In particular, the way that Governments with minority support – unlike in most other Parliaments in the world, including Holyrood - are rewarded with thumping majorities by a long outdated First Past the Post voting system, which then elevates minority views to seem as if they command overwhelming majority views.

Most obviously, that manifests itself in the triumphalist noise-fest and tribalism of Prime Minister’s Questions.

But it affects many other aspects of Parliamentary business too - from the shape of the legislation that emerges to affect our lives; to the prominence and dignity afforded in debate to alternative and notionally at least, “unpopular” points of view.

There is, however, one lesser-known debating chamber within Westminster which often offers an oasis of sanity and calm, and that is Westminster Hall.

The tone of Westminster Hall debates is usually markedly different to the main chamber.
The tone of Westminster Hall debates is usually markedly different to the main chamber.

In fact, the “Westminster Hall” chamber is a large-ish room just off the famous, actual Westminster Hall – the place where William Wallace was put on trial, monarchs have lain in state and world leaders have addressed assembled MPs and Peers.

The tone of Westminster Hall debates is usually markedly different to the main chamber.

Political cudgels get left at the door; common ground is found; and Government Ministers often concede valid points that they would usually dismiss for fun in the main chamber.

And occasionally, goodwill is generated; understanding is shared; some element of consensus is reached; and while no meaningful votes are taken, progress can be made on some of the less-noticed issues of concern of the day.

The debate format is simple, allowing backbenchers of any party to set the agenda by applying for debates of up to 90 minutes to discuss issues of concern or interest, which there may not be time to debate in the main chamber with which everyone is more familiar.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking part in a debate on volunteering and the contribution that it makes, not only to the communities that benefit from it but also to the volunteers themselves.

Just like with a column, there is never enough time to mention absolutely everyone or everything you would wish in a debate.

However, I took the chance to mention four groups within the Gordon Constituency in particular: Gordon Rural Action, the volunteers behind the Victoria Hall in Ellon; the local Men’s Sheds; and the work of Rotary Clubs across the area.

Individual volunteering effort is crucial, but the organisations which facilitate volunteering are important because they match an individual’s willingness and energy with the opportunity to contribute positively.

That is good for the organisations and it is most obviously good for the broader community, but it is also excellent in many respects for the individuals because of the personal fulfilment and purpose which can come from “giving back” in that way.

Community and volunteering are intertwined with one another. Whatever our jobs are, have been or might be in the future, each of us is part of something much greater and bigger than ourselves, and our greatest calling in life, whatever we do, is to be in the service of others.

To all the volunteers and those who help to enable volunteering, I add my heartfelt and sincere thanks for everything you do, and for all you contribute to our collective common good.


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