• Scotland Conference 2023: Reflections

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    We’ve asked contributors and delegates at our Scotland Conference 2023 to share their reflections on a jam-packed day in Glasgow.

    What was their key takeaway? What lessons did they learn or new ideas did they take away from the panels and lightning talks? And why was attending worthwhile for them and their organisation?

    Paul White, Director for Scotland, Confederation of Passenger Transport

    “This year’s CTA conference was my first, which, in hindsight, is a sorry state of affairs given my role as Director for CPT Scotland. Listening to Community Transport operators talk about their passion for serving communities, and discussing topics like the challenges of decarbonisation, it struck me how closely our organisations are aligned.  We engage with the same stakeholders and deal with the same challenges, such as the uncertainty of government support, or the financial constraints facing local authorities.

    “Through the day it became apparent there are some obvious areas where CPT and CTA can and should work more closely together. For example, pressing for further government support for the decarbonisation of rural Scotland’s transport networks and advocating for the Community Bus Fund to be spent in a manner that actually helps Scottish communities now. There is also a clear case for greater engagement to take place locally between authorities, and CPT and CTA members. The role for Community Transport in enhancing and supporting local transport networks will only likely grow.

    “I was taken by CTA’s efforts to map membership across Scotland. CPT has recently completed a similar exercise. Combining that data may help both organisations make the case for better targeted investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

    “Finally, I was really impressed by the vision outlined by Victoria Armstrong and David Kelly. From an outside perspective, CTA has really grown in presence and voice and is clearly in good hands. I look forward to coming back next year.”

    Jeff Zycinski, Manager, Partnerships for Wellbeing

    “This was my first time at a CTA conference and I’m thinking of suing the organisers for the injury to my neck. That’s because I found myself nodding too vigorously as each of the speakers took to the floor to tell us about their organisations and the challenges they face.

    “I learned so much and if there was one big takeaway for me it was that community transport groups are in the health and social care business, more than the transport business. Most are there to provide some kind of lifeline in their communities.

    “For some it’s about getting people to medical or day-care appointments, for others it’s about the survival of entire communities which might otherwise be cut off because local bus services have been reduced or withdrawn. To that end it was always good to hear individual stories about the impact of CT services on the lives of people across Scotland.

    “A big theme this year was about the drive towards environmentally friendly services and we heard a lot about the various schemes, funds and technologies that will enable us to get there. But there was also the opportunity to ask the hard practical questions about how small charities in rented premises can get an agreement to install charging points and thus satisfy the requirements of funding bodies like Plugged-In Communities.

    “I was particularly interested to hear how, like ourselves at PFW, so many CT groups are also engaged in other brilliant community initiatives such as food banks, afternoon disco-dancing and cycling tuition. All provided by amazing volunteers of course.

    “In my own contribution I suggested that the conference could do with a bit more razzmatazz – balloon cascades, strobe lights and pounding rock music. OK, I was joking, but there is so much to be proud of and to celebrate. So maybe a couple of sparklers next year?”

    Lara Henderson, Development Officer for Scotland, CTA

    “This year’s Scotland Conference was a superb reminder of how diverse, thriving and ever-expanding the Community Transport sector in Scotland is. Operators are forever adapting their services to meet demand, improve delivery and, ultimately, to support their communities. Having the opportunity to celebrate and showcase the achievements of just some of the operators we know work so incredibly hard all year was just brilliant.  

    “One of the highlights for me, was the response and engagement we saw throughout the day around taking climate action. For groups working on restricted budgets to deliver lifeline services, decarbonising services and taking climate action is no mean feat. Yet the day brought a reminder of the commitment to reducing the sector’s carbon emissions that we consistently see from operators across Scotland. 

    “Having so many operators keen to learn how other groups are taking climate action, and about the opportunities available to decarbonise vehicle fleets has left me feeling hopeful that the future of the Community Transport sector in Scotland will be clean, green and bright!”

    Greig MacKay, Director for Scotland, Bus Users UK

    “It was great to be part of the Scottish conference and the enthusiasm as well as the energy to provide successful transport solutions for communities in Scotland was very much evident. The diversity of approaches to Community Transport was also extremely interesting.

    “However, like the commercial bus sector, Community Transport faces many of the same challenges: driver shortages; upscaling vehicles to EV and the increasing costs of doing so; licencing/staff training; the importance of IT; and funding for the crucial services that they provide, which is often far beyond the transport element.”

    Martin Kenny, Business Development Officer, Order of Malta Dial-a-Journey Trust

    “Listening to the opening presentation by Victoria Armstrong, CTA’s CEO, and the following video presentation from Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Minister for Transport, made me appreciate how important it is the massive part Community Transport and active travel play.

    “Both presentations were about engagement and the need to cement Community Transport into day-to-day life for the future. Everyone participated in offering questions and even solutions. It felt like we are all in it together. We did get a feeling she [Hyslop] understood what we are about.

    “Seeing so many Community Transport organisations from different parts attending the conference who are so enthusiastic about their profession was a highlight for me. The different types of work other organizations do to stay afloat in this current credit crunch we are in has opened my eyes to other areas I never thought about getting involved in, especially the emerging EV market. There is so much to learn within the CT profession!

    “I do recommend that members attend their national CTA conferences as well as the UK conference. You learn, you network and seeing is believing.”

    Beth Mukushi, Head of Support Services, Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)

    “A big focus of discussions at the event was collaboration to help organisations create climate and net zero plans and take meaningful action. What this looks like will depend on your context, but the core elements of the plan should include:

    • Engagement and learning – with staff, volunteers and communities, we need to talk about what’s happening and how we feel about it.
    • Reducing emissions – we need to release less carbon into the atmosphere by changing our approach to energy, transport, waste and our supply chain.
    • Climate and social justice – empowering groups and communities likely to be worst affected by our changing environment to be heard and shape the solutions.
    • Adapting – preparing for the changes that are already happening, to climate, nature and our society.

    “Our new Growing Climate Confidence resources have been developed with and for third sector organisations.  There is a short scorecard which will give you a sense of what action you should prioritise first, a funding search, and loads of examples of what other similar organisations have done already.

    “The data that we will collate from all the scorecard entries will be shared with funders and support organisations, from Just Enterprise to the TSI network. We hope to be able to show where more support and funding is needed, and to demonstrate the great action already being taken across the third sector in Scotland.”

    John Reid, Transport Manager, South Ayrshire Community Transport

    “CTA’s Scotland Conference 2023 highlighted the great work that varied groups are undertaken to support social inclusion by providing all forms of transport to meet the requirements of local communities. This ranged from work been undertaken by Climate Action Strathaven through to the Women on Wheels project.”

    David Kelly, Director for Scotland, CTA

    “[We were reminded] that ‘it can be a lonely place’ for those shouldering the burdens of responsibility and leadership… That’s why it’s so important for us to create spaces like our annual in-person gathering to nurture the community that is the CTA membership in Scotland…

    “It gives us all an opportunity to come together to connect with each other, to listen and learn from each other and to celebrate each other’s amazing achievements, which it can be all too easy to forget to take a moment to do while you’re on ‘the hamster wheel of delivery’, as one delegate described it. Another told us attending the conference ‘let our tiny organisation feel less isolated’.”

    You can read more of David’s reflections here.

    Over to you…

    Would you like to share your reflections? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch via scotland@ctauk.org.

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