I’m always amazed when I think about how something I started as a hobby, back in 1997, has grown to become a charity in 2013, which is today nationally recognised for its quality, diversity and life-changing training.

Without a doubt, relocating from Ardross in the Scottish Highlands to Ardrossan, North Ayrshire in 2014 started a huge change in who we provided our services for, and what we wanted to achieve. And this in turn saw us being recognised for the empowering effects our training has had on vulnerable people.

We began by renovating the former Barony St John’s church hall on Ardrossan’s Princes Street back in 2015, turning it into the Barony St John Centre, which opened for our service users that same year and then to the public in 2016.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Martial artist Bill Wallace officially opened the centre in 2017Martial artist Bill Wallace officially opened the centre in 2017 (Image: Newsquest)

From there, we began to widen our target groups. Previously, we focussed on female victims of abuse and violence plus children and youths. Now, we began to develop courses for sensory impaired people (blind, deaf, deafblind), people with dwarfism, people from LGBTQ+ groups, people from ethnic minority groups, and most recently, people with learning disabilities and autism.

The range and diversity of our training meant that the number of vulnerable people we trained shot up from 3,506 between 1997 and 2016 to more than 1,000 per year since then (barring the Covid lockdown).

To date, we have trained more than 9,000 vulnerable people, and along the way, our life-changing results have been recognised by various awarding bodies including The Scottish Charity Awards, The National Diversity Awards, The Charity Awards, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and most recently, the UK Excellence Awards.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Alan Bell pictured receiving the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety's accolade at the 2023 UK Excellence AwardsAlan Bell pictured receiving the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety's accolade at the 2023 UK Excellence Awards (Image: Alan Bell/UK Excellence Awards)

In fact, in 2018 we won more national awards than any other charity in the whole of the UK. All of which is pretty amazing considering, at any given time, we’ve only had eight volunteer instructors.

In a couple of weeks’ time, we will hold one of our bi-annual instructor training days, where we revise our first aid techniques, our fire safety training and our personal safety skills before moving on to refreshing our self defence training skills.

Becoming an instructor is not easy though. No experience is necessary, but you do need to learn the law regarding self defence, and the reasonable use of force, inside out.

You also need to be able to present this in front of a class full of people and be quizzed by former police officers to ensure that you know your stuff. And you need to learn, and be able to teach, our self defence techniques.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Alan's project was 25 years old in 2022Alan's project was 25 years old in 2022 (Image: Scottish Centre for Personal Safety)

For those keen to push themselves further, our Level Two instructors need to learn even more self defence skills and survive a five-minute pressure test where they will put all they have learned into practice against three or more padded ‘attackers’.

Some of our instructors come from military, police or prison officer backgrounds, while others may be unemployed, have other jobs or have come to us as service users.

Do you have what it takes to join our team?

We are currently looking for new instructors to join our team and are especially keen to welcome new instructors from ethnic minority backgrounds. So, if you fancy giving yourself a challenge by volunteering, not only will you get the chance to travel throughout Scotland presenting empowering personal safety training with us, but you will also see how YOUR new skills can literally change people’s lives. It’s extremely rewarding.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The SCPS is based at the Barony St John Centre on Princes StreetThe SCPS is based at the Barony St John Centre on Princes Street (Image: Scottish Centre for Personal Safety)

Interested? Then drop us an email at alan@ScotCPS.org.uk and we can arrange to have a coffee and a chat. You don’t have to be from an ethnic minority background, or built like a tank, or be a martial artist or even know much about self defence.

Anyone who is physically fit and can talk in front of an audience can become a volunteer instructor. So if you are big, small, male, female, young or elderly - we will train you to be the best.

So why not pop in and see what our centre has to offer you and, hopefully this time next year, you will be impressing your employer with your volunteer work and getting the most job satisfaction you have ever felt.

In the meantime, if you would like to know more about the work our charity does and the courses we provide, visit our website at www.ScotCPS.org.uk or search for ScotCPS on your social media pages.

Until next time, stay safe.