By Democrat reporter
The remarkable story of a teenager whose life was “all alcohol and no aspiration” until the Duke of Edinburgh Awards were brought to his attention in jail was told to the Scottish Parliament yesterday by Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
He told MSPs: “I associate the Labour benches with the tributes that have been paid to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, pictured left. On Friday, we lost an extraordinary public servant who dedicated his long life to our country as well as transforming the lives of young people around the world and promoting global conservation, which we all now recognise is so important.
“On behalf of the entire Scottish Labour Party, I offer my condolences to everyone who is in mourning here and across the Commonwealth; to all his loved ones; to the royal family; to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and, in particular, to Her Majesty the Queen.
“For more than seven decades, Prince Philip was a constant at the Queen’s side. None of us can even begin to understand the pressure of being monarch in what has often been described as a lonely job, but we know, from all that has been said and written, how much the Queen cherished the support, counsel and love of her husband.
“Although their lives may have been different from ours, as humans we can all empathise with what it means to lose a loved one. That is hard for anyone, no matter how many years they have shared together, but the Queen has lost her beloved husband after their spending more than 70 years together. I cannot even imagine how that must feel, and my thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty for the difficult times ahead.”
Mr Sarwar added: “Unlike others in the chamber, I never had the privilege of meeting Prince Philip, so I am afraid that I do not have any personal anecdotes that I can contribute in addition to the wonderful tributes that people have heard today and, indeed, in recent days. However, I was struck by a personal anecdote that some may have heard in recent days on television or radio. It came from a man called Jon Watts, who was jailed at the age of just 17. Jon recalled that there was
lots of alcohol and no aspirations
for people like him, but while he was in prison he came across the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, which he said gave him a new sense of direction. He camped out for the first award, not on a Scottish mountainside but in a tent on the artificial grass of a prison football pitch. Jon went on to get the bronze, silver and gold awards while serving a six-year sentence. The skill that he learned during the programme was cooking, and on leaving prison he set up his own catering business. He now helps other young people to learn new skills and find new jobs.”
“It saved my life,” Jon said last week.
“That is just one life that the prince helped to save. There will be countless others from different walks of life. Actually, millions of young people from all walks of life are reaching their full potential thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, from the prince’s school at Gordonstoun to Drumchapel high school and right across the UK and the world. I am sure that I am not the only parent in the country who has helped to support their children around their mini or junior dukes or the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
“When Prince Philip launched the awards, in 1956, he said: “If you can get a young person to succeed in any one activity, then that feeling of success will spread over into many others.”
“Following the difficult year that so many young people have faced with their lives and their learning being disrupted by Covid, Prince Philip’s words from 65 years ago are just as relevant today. They are a reminder of the collective national mission that we face in the years ahead in making sure that every child fulfils their potential.
“In closing, I once again pay tribute to the life of the Duke of Edinburgh and recognise his lasting contribution to our country. I express my condolences to everyone who is mourning his passing—not just his family, but people right across the country and beyond—and I extend my sympathies to everyone who has lost a loved one in this most difficult of years.”