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Overseas branches of The Scouts

The UK Scout Association has 12 branches, located in British Overseas Territories and some small independent countries that used to be a part of the UK.

They are located across the world:

  • 8 Caribbean branches (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis)
  • 4 branches in the South Pacific (Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu)
  • 1 European branch (Gibraltar).

Overseas Branches of The Scout Association are to be found in all regions of the world. Constitutionally these Scouts are just as much part of The Scout Association as, for example, Scouts in Scotland, Birmingham or the Channel Islands.

They are all part of The UK Scout Association, but operate in a largely autonomous environment. They still need the support of the UK as some of them are very small. A Scout branch on a small island, like Montserrat, may only have one Scout Group.

History of the UK Branches

The first Scout Troops in the Dominions and Colonies were formed in 1908. As was the custom in the British Empire in those days, they automatically became part of the Boy Scouts Association and they looked to what was then called Imperial Headquarters in London for guidance and instructions. By the beginning of the Great War, Scouting was to be found in 30 countries in the Empire.

At an early stage it became obvious that the methods of administering and organising Scouting in the United Kingdom were unsuited to the needs and conditions of those overseas, and this led to the formation of the Overseas Branches. Each was granted a constitution, a Chief Commissioner was appointed, and the Sovereign's representative in that territory was invited to become the local Chief Scout. This system of organisation and administration is still used in our Branches today, although now the arrangements for member programme, Leader Training and so on are decided upon by the Branch itself and consequently vary considerably around the world.

With the creation of the World Scout Movement at the first World Jamboree at Olympia in 1920, the question of the Branches becoming independent Scout Associations began to be considered. The decision to apply for membership of the Conference was one for the Branch itself to take.

South Africa was the first Branch to become independent in 1937, with India following in 1938, Canada in 1946, and Australia and New Zealand in 1953. Forty four former Branches in Commonwealth countries have so far gained their Scouting independence.

To ensure that the Overseas Branches of The Scout Association have a voice in the running of the Movement, the International Commissioner represents them at the Committee of the Council; is their link and the person they look to for advice and assistance. Support is given to them by the International Office and of course they have access to all Headquarters services.

The Scout Association and the World Scout Bureau are committed as far as possible to enabling Overseas Branches to stand on their own feet and to apply for direct membership of World Scouting at the appropriate time.

Some of the countries in which there are still Branches have gained their political independence, and are aiming for their Scouting independence as soon as the Branch has met the basic requirements for membership of the World Conference, ie. A sound training programme, the nucleus of a training team, and a Constitution which follows the fundamentals of the Movement laid down by the Founder. Small Associations find these requirements difficult but it is a challenge with which The Scout Association is helping. In particular Branches in the South Pacific are receiving support additionally from the Asia Pacific Scout Office and from New Zealand and Australia. Caribbean Branches receive support from the Inter American Scout Office.

Contact the UK Commissioner for Overseas Branches.