Our Development Officer, Duncan, reflects on his participation in the recent Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament in Fort William.
The Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament is where individuals, community leaders, and policymakers come together to address the pressing issues affecting rural areas and islands. It’s an opportunity to exchange ideas, collaborate on solutions, and shape the future of rural and island Scotland.
This fifth sitting of SRIP was centred around Fort William’s Nevis Centre, with the University of the Highlands and Islands providing extra facilities.
From a Community Transport perspective, the overall theme of this sitting, ‘Village halls and community spaces’, was perfectly timed. It followed on from our first-ever and highly successful CT Week.
And it was a perfect illustration of how communities can build great facilities that are accessible and supportive of people, and how Community Transport plays its part – by getting people there.
On the second day, we ventured into the autumnal scenery to take part in study visits spread between Kinlochleven and Arisaig. CTA in Scotland were lucky enough to be part of the rural transport study visit hosted by SRITC and hosted by the Kentallen and Duror Community Hall. Hopefully, attendees took away a positive opinion of the dynamic and wide-ranging roles and services of Community Transport across the country from my brief presentation.
Prior to the study visits, the first day of SRIP ‘23 saw delegates being set some big policy questions to work through. The results of which will inform the Scottish Government’s new National Islands Plan. Another highlight was a presentation from the community-owned Tiree Broadband, whose efforts to connect their island to the web could make a fairly decent adventure film.
Innovation has been key to each of the previous sittings of SRIP, and joining the heroic tales of Tiree’s techies, there were contributions from private companies providing portable charging facilities for EVs, and demand responsive transport platforms for boats. Perhaps there are opportunities for our sector to work together with them on these solutions?
Another highlight of SRIP ‘23 was the involvement of two very different mobile cinemas. The screen machine, and a solar powered, rebuilt 1980s caravan. Both screened community-made, environmentally-focussed work.
Running in parallel to the core event, the Youth Parliament delivered a robust call to action to the SG that put many of the more seasoned activists to shame. Again, the conclusions and recommendations of the Youth representatives will be taken forward by the Scottish Government.
The second day was rounded off with dinner and dancing.
Day three involved networking and catching up with colleagues, lots of coffee and several pieces of cake.
Deputy First Minister, Shona Robison MSP, praised the scope and passion of the event, and announced several new initiatives to support rural and island development.
Looking slightly further across the water from the mainland, Dr Liam Glynn provided an Irish perspective on community development.
We finished the day with a comment from the floor directing people to look at progressive models of taxation that are proving successful in Japan.
Ever outward, ever open, the next meeting of the SRIP will be in 2025.
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