- Best bit: Looking around the room at our candidate training session and realising I get to work with these amazing people, hopefully in Parliament too.
- Worst bit: Still being really sore nearly three weeks after fracturing my arm
- Folk of note: Claire Gillies from Penicuik Y; Esther Carmen who’s running a climate resilience project in the Borders; and the Moffat Community Woodlands team who are trying to gather support for a community buyout
- Miles travelled: 675
- Things I learned: The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund is supporting natural flood management amongst lots of other great things; 57% of rural Scots have broadband speeds of less than 10mbps; The Cobbles in Kelso does an astonishingly good pie.
This week I’ve been all over and met some fantastic people doing great things in their communities. From youth work in Penicuik to mitigating climate change and flooding in Hawick and Kelso and from the Dunbar History Society to folk in Moffat trying to buyout a piece of woodland for the community. I’ve also had some great meetings with the national campaign team which is always a brilliant way to get fired up about what we Greens are trying to achieve.
Wednesday and Thursday were spent meeting with the national campaign team and planning for our upcoming campaign launch. I had my second night at the fantastic Dunbar Sings on Thursday, followed by a full house in the pub. The Volunteer Arms is a great wee place – warm, welcoming and very snug when you try to fit most of a choir in the snug!
Friday, Brenna and I went to Penicuik to visit her old workplace, the Penicuik YMCA/YWCA. We met with Claire Gillies who manages the place – one of those people who somehow manages to achieve ten things, brilliantly, in the time it would take anyone else to achieve one. She told us about the childcare they provide for hundreds of local children; the youth work and mentoring they’re doing, particularly with young people who have real difficulties at home or interacting with folk; and about the challenges they face when it comes to funding. Like so many voluntary organisations, the Penicuik Y is suffering from short term and very uncertain funding despite adding enormous value for the local community and delivering services much more cost effectively than the council. We agreed to keep in touch and I hope to be able to help the organisation at least cut their energy costs by accessing some support.
Saturday was snow day. I *love* snow, except when it makes me miss my train. After some hinging aboot, I made it to Perth where activists and candidates gathered to get fired up for the next 3 months. It was a really inspiring day of campaign messaging, media training and more, topped off with getting a lift to Edinburgh with Andy Wightman, Alison Johnstone and my very favourite Coire the collie.
On Sunday, Nat and I had a history day in Dunbar, visiting the brilliant John Muir Birthplace Museum. The father of conservation grew up here before exporting his love of nature to America where it evolved into a campaign to protect natural land and wilderness such as Yosemite and the Californian Redwoods. Some day I’ll write a blog on my thoughts on Muir’s legacy and our view of our land in Scotland (it might be controversial). We also visited the Dunbar Town House, former Town Council HQ and now museum come gallery and saw a great exhibition on the harbour.
On Sunday evening we launched our South of Scotland crowdfunder which has already got nearly £1000. Thanks so much to everyone who’s donated. If you haven’t yet, there’s still time!
Monday brought my favourite month – February holds every season in one – and a great long trip to Hawick and Kelso. In Hawick I met with Esther Carmen who’s running a project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which supports three communities in the Borders to discuss, learn about and plan around climate change and how they can become more resilient. Sat in the Heart of Hawick, we watch as the Slitrig river roared past, brown and angry. The project is a really interesting one, bringing local people together in Hawick, Peebles and Newcastleton. Each community has been hit by flooding but is also grappling with issues like the lack of opportunity for young people and lack of access to services. Esther’s working with each community to help them find their own ways to tackle these issues and become more resilient.
From Hawick we travelled onto Kelso where we just had time for a brilliant steak pie in The Cobbles in front of a roaring fire. We met with some brilliant Borders Greens at one of their regular meetings where they learn about a particular topic. This week the focus was on flooding and land management and we were lucky enough to welcome Hugh Chalmers from Tweed Forum who talked through some of the really amazing things they’ve been doing around Eddleston to prevent flooding. We also got a chance to big up Kevin, a Hawick member, who made this great video on derelict land and housing.
Tuesday was a big old mixture of a day with a blazer-requiring consultation event with Ofcom in the afternoon and a snowy journey to Moffat in the evening. The Ofcom event was around their annual plan and particularly what they’re planning in Scotland. These things are always interesting, particularly for the questions asked by the audience. In this case, questions were around poor quality service and communications around the Openreach project to lay fibre broadband throughout Scotland; plans for a universal service obligation on broadband speeds; and issues around competition when some parts of Scotland are only served by one mobile phone provider. You can find the consultation and their Connected Nations report here.
After the Ofcom event, Andy Wightman (minus Coire the collie) picked me up and we drove down to Moffat for a community meeting with Friends of Gallow Hill. The local landowner recently felled a small woodland on his land and, whilst considering whether to replant for another 20-30 years, decided to offer it for sale to the local community. I’ll write a little more about the meeting in a separate blog but for me the most interesting part of the evening was the concern and resistance amongst some of the folk there who worried about the responsibility of taking on a community owned woodland. Many were enthusiastic and the Scottish Land Fund representative for the South said the feasibility study they’d done was great, but those niggles were intriguing given the clear enthusiasm of Wanlockhead a couple of weeks ago.
That brings us to today. The coming week brings exciting campaign news as we hit the three month mark, a couple of days off to spend some much needed time with friends and an event in North Berwick with Sustaining NB. Until next time…