Scottish Communities CAN’s first national gathering and AGM – report on the gathering

Our first national gathering took place at Maryhill Burgh Halls in Glasgow, on 6th March. Thank you to everyone who came along and helped make the day a great way for our members to meet up, share learning and ideas, and help shape our priorities and workplan for the next year.

This post has a summary of the gathering, plus links to various presentations, reports and organisations, to help share some of the learning from the day. Please get in touch  if you’d like any more information, or you have any ideas for next year’s gathering!

The gathering started with a presentation by our (outgoing) Chair and Vice-Chair, Suzy Goodsir and Philip Revell. They talked about the need for and history of Scottish Communities CAN, and about our achievements over the last year – those are summarised in our Annual Report. (You can read more of the background on the About Us page of our website).

Our keynote speaker was Alf Young, and (if we say so ourselves) he was a great choice! Alf writes, broadcasts and comments on a range of issues affecting Scotland and the wider world, having ‘retired’ in 2009 from The Herald newspaper, where he was responsible for comment and opinion. His recent book, which he has co-written with his son Ewan, is The New Road: charting Scotland’s inspirational communities. Alf shares some inspiring stories from their travels to research the book, and we thoroughly recommend that you read it. (The New Road is part of the Postcards from Scotland series of short books published by Argyll Publishing and the Centre for Confidence and Well-being, designed to stimulate and communicate new thinking and new ways of living.)

The other main session of the day was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, facilitated by Alan Caldwell. Alan encouraged us to tell our community or project’s story and identify the highlights, low points, and the common barriers that we face. Scottish Communities CAN will use Alan’s mindmap notes from that session to shape our priorities and workplan for the next year.

Reports from the workshops

Delegates also took part in two workshops, out of a choice of seven.

  • Working with Energy Saving Trust and Energy Saving Scotland advice centres:  successful collaboration?

Osbert Lancaster led a discussion about working with partner organisations, in particular the Energy Saving Scotland advice centres, thinking about what worked and what could be improved.  This workshop was part of a joint Energy Saving Trust / Scottish Communities CAN research project that will inform EST and ESSacs’ future support for communities.

  • Local Authority – Partnership working, facilitated by Elizabeth Leighton

Many groups enjoy a good, collaborative relationship with their local authority, showing the great potential for what can be achieved when working in partnership. This session allowed us to share experience and discuss top tips for new and existing groups. Elizabeth’s slides and notes from the workshop are available here; the workshop will feed into our Local Authority research project.

  • The Comrie Development Trust Experience

Two of the Comrie team shared the story of the progress and pitfalls of the first five years of CDTs’ experience in working towards financial sustainability, and explored how the Trust’s experience could relate to other communities considering their own development. Their slides are available to view here (4MB PDF).

  • The Seed Kist – Scotland’s hidden treasure and how to recover it, with Fergus Walker of Fife Diet

Fergus explained that the Seed Truck was a Fife Diet outreach project funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The truck travels to communities promoting the growing of produce suited to the area and telling the story of the produce. The project delivers workshops which aim to be inspirational, educational and empowering. Through this work, it is hoped a network of garden projects with a strong focus on local food will emerge. Fergus is keen to develop a database of seeds and the best locations in Scotland for those seeds to grow. For more information see Fergus’s presentation from the workshop or email Fergus directly at

  • Community Hubs – what are they, might they work, and if so where?

With Alan Brown of the Scottish Communities CAN’s 2020 Climate Group liaison group.  This workshop explored the concept of community hubs, and how Scottish Communities CAN, working in collaboration with business, could pilot community hubs in Scotland. See the notes from the workshop. For more information on how this idea progresses please contact us (we can add you to our mailing list),  or email Alan directly

  • What is the Green Deal? with Karen Hilton of Towards Zero Carbon Bute. 

This workshop gave an introduction to the Green Deal/ECO/Affordable Warmth/Carbon Saving Communities Obligation, and discussed ideas on how community groups or social enterprises could benefit.

  • Our Growing Community, with Greenspace Scotland

Greenspace Scotland’s new community tool-kit was introduced. It aims to get communities ‘growing everywhere’ by helping them to explore the different places and ways that they can grow food in their own local area or neighbourhood.