I’ve been talking recently with our friends and fellow members at the Scottish Community Alliance about what really makes a ‘network’ a network – and what makes a ‘community’ an actual living, breathing community.
Yet defining community can actually be quite simple: You know it when you see it. And I saw it, heard it and felt it in abundance at CTA’s Scotland Conference 2023 in Glasgow!
Our sector really is about “community more than it is about transport”, as Kenny Duncan of LCTS said, looking beyond simply “moving people from A to B”. It’s about people and the connections which make our communities stronger and “more accessible & better places to live for everyone”, as Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Transport Minister, put it in her Keynote Address. She set out strong support for Community Transport and CTA as a “valuable partner” for the Scottish Government.
This is true, of course, of the services our amazing sector delivers across Scotland and for the people and communities who rely on CTA members to get them where they need to be. Without Community Transport, life would be much more difficult for so many Scots. For example, Jeff Zycinski of Partnerships for Wellbeing reflected that many older people and disabled people would essentially be “trapped in their own homes” without accessible transport – Scotland’s “invisible citizens”.
However, it is also true of the people who work and volunteer in Community Transport too; the passionate, practical and pro-active problem solvers who keep the wheels turning every single day against the odds and despite the headwinds of Brexit, COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. Just as at Scotland Conference 2022, concerns and fears about funding and ever-tighter budgets are still keeping many members awake at night.
Coalfield Community Transport’s Susan Dever reminded us that “it can be a lonely place” for those shouldering the burdens of responsibility and leadership. Tom Barbour, thinking about his children and the next generation, was spurred on to create Climate Action Strathaven “because of them”. Drew Smart and the wonderful team in Glenfarg refused to sit back and watch their village be left behind – “Our bus service was cancelled so we started our own”.
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, itself just one part of the “thriving Community Transport movement across the UK” which we seek to lead, as our CEO, Victoria, reiterated.
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”.
70 delegates and speakers travelled from all over Scotland by bike, bus, car, ferry and train to be part of a busy, brilliant day in Glasgow. We’re so humbled and grateful that people found the time and made the effort to spend hours on the road to make the journey from Aboyne, Inverness, Mull and beyond to be with us.
Diversity of Voices
We listened closely to your feedback from last year’s event to make our 2023 edition in Glasgow bigger and better. We changed the way we structured the sessions and introduced new, more innovative formats, like the ‘Lightning Talks’, to keep the pace up and engagement high. We prioritised ensuring there was a platform for a diversity of voices and perspectives to be heard. We chose a modern venue with unrivalled public transport links and high standards of accessibility and sustainability.
We hope that these improvements met your needs and expectations – we’ve received lots of kind words and constructive suggestions for next year already! But we’re still keen to hear views, so if you attended and haven’t yet done so, please do complete our short feedback survey.
Looking back at the 2022 edition in Perth, it’s clear how far we’ve come, but also how far far we’ve still to go. We’ve made progress on some of the big issues – like on sustainability, where we’ve published an influential new report; our Climate Action programme has helped 77% of CTA members to take climate action in the last 12 months; and we’ve secured significant new funding for our sector’s transition to zero-emission fleets through Plugged-In Communities and ScotZEB2.
Yet many of the main challenges we talked about during the day would be very familiar to our audience in Glasgow a year on – the growing threat of funding cuts; shortages of volunteers and drivers; a shrinking bus network, especially in rural areas; rising demand for accessible transport from an ageing population.
Call to Action
But this was no counsel of despair. This was a collective call to action – with a strong dose of inspiration – for our community.
Tom Barbour urged us to really act as if we live in a “climate emergency” – because we do! My inspirational colleague Noeleen told the story of how CTA, along with our members and partners, responded to an unprecedented crisis and helped to “save CT in Northern Ireland”. The inimitable Jeff Zycinski and the incredible Pasna Sallis of Weekday Wow Factor were a double act full of energy, enthusiasm and optimism – in fact, Jeff almost literally rallied the troops of Community Transport!
It was great to hear from strong supporters of Community Transport like Energy Saving Trust, the Robertson Trust and the Community Learning Exchange about the advice, funding, training, and support they can offer, complimenting our work at CTA. You’re really not alone!
We need to work together with key partners to solve the big challenges we face – it was so useful to hear from Transport Scotland’s Carole Stewart, CPT Scotland’s Paul White and the Scottish Ambulance Service’s Samantha Ritchie about what they see as the synergies and opportunities. We’ll be following these up in the weeks and months ahead.
In the meantime, you can download speaker presentations from the right-hand side of this page or register now to attend CT ’23 in Birmingham, our in-person UK Conference and Awards, which promises to be a similarly fantastic day.
A massive thank you to everyone who contributed and participated to make our flagship annual event so special – especially our wonderful contributors, who came from near and far, and my amazing CTA colleagues without whom it simply wouldn’t have been possible. What a team!
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