Scotland's Futures Forum – How to re-perceive our understanding of 'rural Scotland' in the 21st Century?

Posted in CF Writing, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 12, 2009

Willie Roe, Chair, Skills Development Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, focused this event on an idea of equivalence and interdependence. He drew on the example of Denmark where, in law, the urban and the rural have to be dealt with in equivalent ways. This means that within any planning cycle rolling out services the rural is dealt with in parallel with the urban. The case in point is broadband which has apparently been rolled out in urban Scotland but is still only just reaching the islands. He perhaps highlighted interdependence through the example of very functional ferry services in the Shetlands versus the rest of the western and northern isles ferry services. He observed that in Shetland these had been designed to be the most effective for the islanders by the islanders, whereas the rest seemed to have been designed from the urban centre outwards. He also highlighted the importance of renewable energy in rural Scotland.

It therefore felt a little like the invitation had been made to come to Edinburgh to consider what could be done for rural Scotland which was obviously ‘dependent’ but that by the end the question was quite different: and might end up something like: ‘What are the key priorities where the rural has a specific role to play?’ When we ask these questions we begin to see a different set of answers: certainly renewables, but also education (apparently the OECD recently found that education in rural Scotland is actually the best in the world), probably community development, and I am sure the list goes on. Our priorities would come out looking different: re-engineering our electricity grid from one which distributes from the centre to the periphery, to one which also enables the periphery to distribute to the centre, might be a metaphor for quite a lot of other re-engineering. We would move away from assuming that the ‘rural’ is ‘dependent.’

But, if I had a reservation about the event, it was the lack of the use of the word sustainability in relation to the proposed core concept of equivalence. Equivalence could be interpreted in very wasteful ways. Rather I’d like to imagine Scotland in 20 years time being equivalent to Eigg, certainly in relation to energy if not also land ownership. I say this because Eigg is now wholly renewable, but also because there is social and environmental justice built into the system. Eigg does not have an unlimited volume of electricity available, although it is free and not consumed in the process of use. Therefore they have implemented a 5kw limit for households and a 10kw limit for businesses in the form of a trip on the supply. This way noone can take more than their share. To me this is an important model for a sustainable future for the planet, not just one utopian island.

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  1. Transition Design – thoughts « said, on November 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    […] practical articulation of ways that the ethical can be woven into the fabric of life – I’ve elsewhere talked about Eigg’s move to renewable energy and the importance of the ‘cut-outs’ built into […]

  2. […] practical articulation of ways that the ethical can be woven into the fabric of life – I’ve elsewhere talked about Eigg’s move to renewable energy and the importance of the ‘cut-outs’ built into […]

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