- Best bits: Knowing I played even a small part in saving buses in Dumfries and Galloway, alongside a fantastic bunch of Green campaigners
- Worst bit: Being totally floored by stomach cramps all weekend.
- Folk of note: Maggie, Amanda and Pip from the Scottish Rural Parliament who’ve been travelling around the South gathering views from rural folk on what should go in a manifesto to be decided in October.
- Miles travelled: 538
- Things I learned: Farm incomes in Scotland have halved in five years, just 12% of farmers are under the age of 45 and the proportion of land available to rent has halved in my lifetime.
This week, I’ve been out and about in Dumfries, the Borders and Midlothian talking rural economy, transport, farming, regeneration and creative industries as well as launching a new crowdfunder. On Wednesday, after just getting back to Dunbar from a few days away in Galloway, I hot footed it back down the road to Dumfries to help hand in the 1,675 signature petition calling for Sunday and evening buses to be saved.
The meeting of SWestrans on Friday agreed a new proposal to scale back the cuts by a third. It’s far from perfect and there will inevitably be folk who lose out because of it. But I’m proud to be part of the team that made sure SWestrans didn’t get away with just rubber stamping cuts to vital services.
After handing in the petition I spent the rest of the afternoon in The Stove, eating delicious food and writing last week’s campaign diary. There are many reasons to love The Stove, but bumping into pals like Graham from Lateral North and Lucy Brown who helped get The Lowland Clearances back in print is one of them. Having spent the previous weekend in Stranraer, I’d love to see something like The Stove opening up there and breathing new life into the town.
With the rain falling in Dumfries, I drove back up the road through bursts of sun over Moffat and black clouds at Tweedsmuir to Lamancha, a few miles south of Penicuik. I was attending my second Scottish Rural Parliament event – one of a series of consultation workshops seeking input into a manifesto for rural Scotland. The energetic folks running the show – Pip Tabor from the Southern Upland Partnership, Maggie Gordon who farms in Galloway and Amanda Burgauer who wears many different business and community hats around Crawford – are doing similar events almost nightly right across the South.
With a wee crowd of community activists and farmers, conversations centred around local democracy and diversifying farming. I especially enjoyed the response of one guy when I asked how his farm was diversifying – “Och well nowadays o course the wives even go out tae work away frae the farm. That’s diversity for ye”. Amazing. You can find out more about the Scottish Rural Parliament’s project here.
After Lamancha I popped into Edinburgh for tea with Adam Ramsay and pals and recorded a wee podcast on tax. You can find it here on Bright Green.
After an admin day on Thursday, Friday was mostly spent in Penicuik. Midlothian is split between Lothian region which includes Dalkeith, Wallyford and Pathhead, and the South of Scotland region which includes Penicuik, Gorebridge and Newtongrange. I took the opportunity to avoid the bypass and go cross country to get there from Dunbar, wandering up into the moorland around Gorebridge. I’ve cycled up there a couple of times but never driven or really stopped. It’s stunningly beautiful.
In Penicuik an icy wind was raging which meant our street stall didn’t last very long. After some very cold leafletting and conversations around the market, I got the chance to get a guided tour, out of the wind, of a fantastic new project which could transform Penicuik.
The Storehouse is a huge building on one of the main streets in the town.
Having been the old Coop building, a pound shop and various other things over the years, the community has now raised enough money to rent it and is slowly transforming it into a bakery, cafe, shop and workshop.
Rodger showed us around and told us about the vision for local produce being promoted, sold, baked and enjoyed in the space. If you can spare a few pennies to help them complete the project, please chuck them in this direction.
On Saturday I went down the coast to St Abbs for the annual wool festival which brings together spinners, weavers and knitters from all across Scotland and the north of England.
I met a brilliant woman from Haddington Spinners who’s written a book about her travels round Scotland getting wool from all our native breeds and making socks. I love the idea of creating whilst travelling, particularly when it involves a skill that so few people have nowadays.
Frustratingly I only managed an hour at the wool festival before my body decided it had had enough. A weekend of stomach cramps and a wooly brain followed.
By Monday I felt much brighter and ventured down to the Borders through Duns and Kelso for an afternoon and evening focused on farming. I visited Born in the Borders – a brewery, restaurant and shop selling produce from the south of Scotland and north of England – and met with their manager Nicola.
In the evening I was in St Boswells for a hustings with the NFU Scotland. I’ll write more about both farming events in another blog, but the bottom line is that farming is in crisis and we desperately need to address it as a country. If we don’t, we won’t have much of a country left.
Tuesday was all about the buses, doing a wee photo call and interview with Patrick Harvie, followed by a day of admin in Edinburgh and a visit to the brilliant student occupiers in Edinburgh University who are trying to get the uni to divest from all fossil fuels. The day ended with the launch of our new crowdfunder. Please chip in what you can and help make this wild journey worth it!
Coming up this week; transport things in Dumfries, an action day in East Lothian, our manifesto launch and a week of hustings! Until next time…