Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has lent his support to a new way of learning for retired people.
The politician, who represents the Mid Scotland and Fife region, took time this week to visit the U3A in Scotland exhibition at the Scottish Parliament.
There are now 54 U3As in Scotland with 12,000 members. UK-wide, there are 1,035 U3As with 424,000 members.
The U3A is a self-help learning co-operative movement for older people no longer in full-time employment. U3As are autonomous but are affiliated to the Third Age Trust, a registered charity.
U3A estimate that more than one per cent of people aged over 65s is now learning in these locally-led educational groups.
Research has shown that regular meetings among older residents brings health and social benefits.
On Wednesday, Mr Fraser praised the work of the U3As.
“I now have a much clearer understanding of how U3As work,” he commented.
“Older people have a lifetime of knowledge to share at a point when they also have more time to learn. The range of subjects’ people want to study informally is purely down to the interests of local members - it could be art or architecture to opera or origami.
“It makes sense that going to individual classes and monthly U3A meetings can impact social isolation. U3As are a feel-good community resource for those in or facing retirement.
“I certainly want to support any new and established U3As in my own constituency, and use social media to say #ISupportU3A.”
And Kath Payne, chair of the U3A in Scotland, added: “We are delighted so many MSPs are pledging to support this lifelong learning phenomenon in Scotland.”