Day 43 – Speaking At Conference

This year was the first time I attended the SNP conference. I spoke on Motion 4 at the conference, which was on the grow your own movement:

Conference welcomes the efforts of the Scottish Government since 2007 to support individuals and communities who wish to grow some of their own food.
Conference notes the many beneficial effects that allotments, private gardens, Community Gardens and orchards can have on the environment, healthy diets, exercise and recreational activities.
Conference calls on the next Scottish Government to build on this work, by working with local authorities to ensure more land is made available for allotments, that schools and schoolchildren have access to garden space, and that support is given to development of Scotland’s orchards and historic varieties of fruit.

This is an issues I have a strong opinion on and which I feel I have a bit of a stake in. First of all, I’d quite like a garden, but as an unemployed 20-something, I don’t have the income to buy or rent a property with a garden. I’ve also spent much of the past 6 years living close to land which is largely abandoned – the site of a former school in Glasgow and the site of Shrubhill Bus Depot in Edinburgh. This land has great potential to be put to use by the community, but instead they sit there looking ugly (NB. I recently learnt that the site in Glasgow is being developed for social house by a housing association).

Good afternoon. I’d like, if I may, to tell you a short story. I was lucky enough grow up in a little village called Ballater, in north-east. Surrounded by Munros and Commission forests and full of Victorian houses, it is a green and leafy place. Nearly everyone has a garden and the horticulture society fête is a highlight of the year for many in the village.

When I was 17, I moved to Glasgow. The dear green place. It is a city I am very fond of. But in many ways, it doesn’t live up to it’s reputation. Adjacent to my flat was an acre of concrete wasteland, the site of a former school. It is only in the last few months, after at least five years sitting empty that building work began to construct social housing on the site.

Five years that land could have been cultivated for. Wooden planters full of veg for the local community, projects for the local kids and the nursery beside the plot of land could have been on the site.

Glasgow City Council, however, prefers to let land lie fallow than to allow it’s use. In the last few months they’ve even forcefully evicted a community group who’d set up a community allotment scheme on apparently abandoned land in the north of Glasgow.

Instead, Glasgow CC is content to let people who wish to grow-their-own to sit on waiting lists for years and in some cases decades so they can get an allotment. they are not the only one. There is useful wasteland and allotment waiting lists in Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire.

I want to see the children in inner city Scotland to have the same experiences I had when I was a child, growing up in leafy, garden-filled Ballater. In order to give them that right we need to give the people of Scotland greater rights to make use of wasteland and vacant plots.

The above wasn’t exactly what I said at Conference. Rather it’s my hasty notes outlining what I intended to say. It comes across as being more openly hostile against Glasgow City Council then I was on the day, as well as placing greater emphasis on my own background.

As for what I’d like to see, well, I recently told a Civil Engineer friend about it and he laughed. I still think it’s possible for councils to put unoccupied land to work temporarily. It’s certainly worth investigating more.

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