By Michael MacLeod
SCOUTS have been banned from carrying penknives on camping trips in a move branded “health and safety gone mad.”
Troop leaders blamed the growing number of fatal stabbings across Britain, fearing innocent Scouts could land themselves in trouble with the law for knife possession.
Instead, the Scout Association is advising youngsters to give their tiny blades to their supervisors to look after until they need to use them.
For generations loyal young Scouts have carried penknives while following the movement’s famous motto: “Be prepared.”
Ever since Lord Baden Powell founded the movement more than 100 years ago, Scouts have been taught how to use knives correctly and carried them to cut firewood or prepare food.But now the Scout Association has outlawed penknives in new advice it says will help reduce intimidation and bullying among its members.
Anyone can legally carry fold-up knives with blades shorter than three inches long.
But new rules published in the official in-house Scouting magazine says neither Scouts nor their parents should bring penknives to camp except in ‘specific’ situations.
Dave Budd, who trains Scouts on safe knife use said the rise in knife crime – up 50 per cent in just one year – demanded ‘clarification’ of the guidance.
He wrote: “Scouts often have the need for a good knife, and in the early days every Scout was actively encouraged to put a knife on their belt.
“Sadly, there is now confusion about when a Scout is allowed to carry a knife.
“The series of high-profile fatal stabbings highlighted a growing knife culture in the UK.
“I think it is safest to assume that knives of any sort should not be carried by anybody to a Scout meeting or camp, unless there is likely to be a specific need for one.
“In that case, they should be kept by the Scout leaders and handed out as required.”
Sheila Burgin, a troop leader for Sevenoaks Scout Group in Kent, criticised the guidance.
She said: “The Scout Association doesn’t want to be in trouble for encouraging people to carry knives but I think it is very sad.
“It is health and safety gone mad.
“Scouts by law are allowed to have Swiss army knives. I think this is going too far – you just don’t know when a Scout will need a knife.
“It is also suggested that the leader keeps control of the knives when they go camping, but Ithink that is completely wrong.
“The first Scout Law is “The Scout is to be trusted”.
“Scouts love having knives and using them properly. There is nothing wrong with it.
“If you teach children to use a knife properly they won’t abuse it. If someone wants to cause harm they will do it anyway. It is a real shame it has come to this.”
But a Scouts spokesman defended its new policy, saying youngsters could still learn important skills without knives.
They said: “The Scout Association plays a key role in helping young people develop the confidence, maturity and self-esteem they need to play active and responsible roles in their communities, and to resist the peer pressure that may attract them into local gang culture.
“We believe that young people need more places to go after school and at weekends, where they can experience adventure without the threat of violence or bullying and the need to carry weapons.
“Scouting helps to prepare young people with valuable life skills, while keeping them safe by not carrying knives.”