A Newcomers perspective on the bigger picture in Scotland
I'm not looking at as big a picture as Ann and Adrienne, more like the middle distance, the regional picture. What I have discovered so far about the wider Transition agenda in Scotland. These are some of my first impressions, so forgive me if I misunderstand anything!
I have so far deduced that the biggest difference in the sustainability agenda in Scotland is that it has a devolved government that can set its own policy on certain issues and that one of those policies supports the Climate Challenge Fund.
An example of the impact of the first difference is the new national food and drink policy, which despite falling far short of expectations does include a requirement for all public sector procurement to take sustainability into consideration. At the Nourish (Scottish local food network) conference last weekend I was impressed to hear the steps the East Ayrshire council were taking as part of this - breaking down procurement contracts back into small chunks to enable and encourage SMEs (small/medium sized enterprizes) that may only produce one product, such as eggs, to successfully secure public sector contracts. Focussing on values for money rather than value.
The Scottish government have also set some rather ambitious targets of reducing Scotland's carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and to have 50% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020 - partly a recognition of Scotland's massive wind, tide and wave potential.
As for the Climate Challenge Fund - it is no surprise that many of the UK's community based environmental jobs are in Scotland. A dedicated pot of funding from the Scottish Government for reducing Scotland's carbon emissions and building community - it has distributed £37.7m over the 4 years that it has been running in a variety of different sized chunks. This has unsurprisingly kick-started a lot of sustainability activity across Scotland. Having funding that you stand a reasonable chance of getting is a fantastic opportunity for people trying to get community projects off of the ground. It also creates, as I alluded to above, a considerable number of jobs in the sustainability field.
However, as often happens with these things the maximum potential benefit of this amazing opportunity hasn't been realised. In the first few years the focus was dogmatically on carbon counting and, as such, the projects often found it difficult to continue all flags flying after the funding stopped. They had not had enough time spare to build up the community and structures necessary to support their projects long term. There is also a certain element, due to the application and allocation process, of funding to try to start projects in communities rather than necessarily to create the projects that the community chooses itself.
However, to give Keep Scotland Beautiful, who manage the fund, their due they are learning on their feet and the selection criteria and focus appears to be moving steadily towards building community and capacity rather than strict carbon counting.
I want to reiterate that I am just relating my first impressions and contrary to what I imply above I have already discovered lots of amazing projects that have cracked the community engagement and embedding nut. A prime example being The Fife Diet.
An area where I can see potential challenges, although I am not yet au fait with all of it, is getting more funding or making projects profitable after their initial year of funding. The Climate Challenge funding is really for starting things going as it is only for a year and they won't refund a project to continue doing exactly the same thing. Unfortunately there isn't a follow on fund, which often leads to random hiatus' in projects around March time and everyone scrabbling for what lottery and European funding is around. The recent introduction of training and suggestions of setting up social enterprises, I think, is definitely a move in the right direction.
Some of the examples of support for broader thinking are the fife diets 'Blasda' project to have a day of events celebrating local food spread across the country - and a very tasty day it was too. Also the funding Transition UWS along with Transition University St Andrews and Transition Heriot-Watt University have just been awarded for supporting a network of universities and colleges across Scotland in kick starting Transition initiatives in their education communities.
So all in all its pretty different north of the border. It is interesting to come into this situation, so different to the one I was used to in Norwich and I am just starting to get a grip on some of the ins and outs of it. I would be very interested to hear other peoples opinions and experiences in this area too.
Photos: scottish windfarm (reuters), CCF advert, fife diet logo, Blasda logo