Scotland in Transition: the view from the mountains
Ah Scotland, the land of haggis, whisky, bagpipes and Robbie Burns.
A country not traditionally linked to or climatically favourable for the stereotypical transition diet, they are in fact leading the way in terms of pioneering local diets. The Scots are very proud of their country and therefore there are many passionate supporters of making life more local. Many communities in Scotland have been through a turbulent past of highland clearances and marginalisation, but they are still there which suggests that they must have some resilience. Scotland also has some of the most extreme environments in the UK, but that isn't stopping them growing.
In this post I am going to attempt to give you an overview of Transition in Scotland. Scotland is quite a way past being a 'region' as it has a similar land area to the whole of England, but it does also have a considerably smaller population. As it has a devolved government and a quite significantly different landscape and climate to the rest of the UK it is quite a distinct context for Transition to work within. Hopefully I can give you a flavour of this.
As an outsider who worked for a Transition Initiative in Scotland for a year I am going to take a look at what makes Transition in Scotland different from the rest of the UK (and England specifically).
The Climate Challenge Fund
One of the biggest differences that I experienced first hand was the effect of the Scottish government Climate Challenge Fund, which specifically funds communities to reduce their carbon footprint. I have discussed the Climate Challenge Fund before (An introduction & a discussion of the impacts), but I just want to highlight the impact it has on Transition in Scotland. Firstly it provides an easily available source of funding for all kinds of community groups, in some ways this is a massive benefit and has allowed many Transition initiatives to develop much faster than they would have done otherwise and has provided employment within the sector. On the other hand it has tended to take away quite a lot of the grassroots elements of projects and I am not convinced that many of the projects are sustainable. I am talking generally here though about all of the funded projects and many of these are not related to Transition at all. Some have a similar ethos, but many do not.
Transition Support Scotland
One of the initial projects that was funded by the Climate Challenge Fund was Transition Support Scotland, which provided a resources and networking facility for the Transition initiatives across Scotland. Eva, it's initiator, gave a very interesting interview about it here. Unfortunately it is no longer funded, but it has undoubtedly influenced the Transition movement in Scotland.
Another difference that the Climate Challenge Fund has produced is the development of Transition Universities. These do exist in England too, but due to the nature of the community in Universities they are difficult to establish without some funding. Transition Aberdeen University and Transition Edinburgh University were the first to get funding and they trialled the projects and techniques that have paved the way for other Transition Universities to emerge. They are by no means perfect and the reluctance of CCF to refund projects has, as with all projects, made it difficult to make them sustainable.
To date there have been six Transition Universities funded by CCF, implementing a variety of practical projects, including Transition University of West Scotland where I worked. There has also been funding for networking and training for Universities and Colleges who are interested in Transition and this has thankfully been refunded.
Scotland has a couple of strong community food networks. Nourish is a voluntary sustainable food network that runs conferences, collectively lobbies government and sends out regular newsletters. I have been to one of the conferences and it was a fantastic place for meeting people and making connections. One of the things they are trying to achieve at the moment is getting the government to agree to let derelict land be used for growing, until it is 'reclaimed', which would be a fantastic advantage for Transition initiatives.
Blasda is a series of events across the country to celebrate local food, spearheaded by the Fife Diet. It ran for the first time last autumn and the events that I attended were brilliant.
I am not very familiar with the differences between Scottish and Westminster law, but I do know that the Scottish governments Climate Change targets are significantly more ambitious than England's with a target of at least 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and 100% renewable energy by 2020.
Having a devolved government also makes it feel much more worthwhile to lobby them, as they are smaller and more relevant to you. And if the Scottish people choose independence then that will make an even bigger difference to the context.
So there you have a whistle stop tour of Scottish Transition. Do stop by in November for a whole week of tales from Transition groups from all around this wonderful country.
Photos: The view from the Mountains (Ben Lawers to be precise), Transition UWS energy advice clinic (Emily Speck), Transition Edinburgh University logo, the delicious lunch and socialising at the Nourish conference (Alan Brown), The wind farm that is visible from Glasgow (Jean)