Seeing community groups thrive with Beautiful Scotland and It's Your Neighbourhood
A blog post by Sandy Scott
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Our Beautiful Scotland, It’s Your Neighbourhood and Green Flag Awards for Parks would not be possible without the dedication of our incredible volunteer judges. Sandy Scott is a treasured member of the Keep Scotland Beautiful volunteer family, in this blog he tells us why he loves seeing community groups thrive and grow.
It’s been too many years to remember, but I feel as if I’ve been with the “In Bloom” family forever! As a Parks and Countryside Manager for Aberdeen City Council and even 40 years previous when I started as an apprentice gardener, the importance of environmental matters was uppermost in the mind of all the staff. Of course, back then, things were very different, with the emphasis very much put onto a local authority entry for Scotland in Bloom.
I’m pleased to say that community participation, and entries led by the community, are more the norm now. To witness that development and morphing into what is more common in today’s society has been exciting to see, to say the least.
It was a natural progression for me to want to be more involved with Keep Scotland Beautiful and with the Beautiful Scotland programme in particular. What I found when I joined as a volunteer judge, was that I was joining a family of like-minded folk, not all professional horticulturalists but people from all walks of the environmental life, with passion for their particular element. This band of merry men and women were, and are, led ably by the young matriarch of Beautiful Scotland, Juliette Camburn!
For me, as a Beautiful Scotland judge, It’s Your Neighbourhood assessor and Green Flag Award judge, I always feel quite humbled when I meet groups, individuals and partnerships that just burst with pride and achievement for the differences they are making to their local community. It’s those people, those differences, I remember the most. Too many to mention, but up there are Easthaven, North Berwick, Lauder and, more recently, Stonehaven. All the groups leave their mark on you and, as a judge, every day is different and it's an absolute privilege to be able to spend time with so many wonderful people.
I would encourage all groups making a difference to their environment to enter into the various Keep Scotland Beautiful campaigns, whether it’s Beautiful Scotland, It’s Your Neighbourhood, Scotland’s Beach Award, or Green Flag Award - the satisfaction you get from recognising all your hard work and effort to protect and enhance your local environment is immense! A sense of achievement, in these recent difficult times can be hard to come by but, by joining our ever-increasing family, that sense of achievement is recognised, not only in practical awards but by highlighting good practice through social media and newsletters. Problem solving and networking, all for the common good. Seminars on seed sowing, natural environment, help to focus on your local environment, right through to funding possibilities are just some of the benefits of joining us; as the game show host of yesteryear used to say: “Come on Down!” It should not just be hard work and enthusiasm that makes folk want to improve their environment, it should be about having fun as well and that’s what we judges find… there’s always more than one character in a group that keeps the fun in it, tea and cake always brings a smile out on folks faces, and it’s that feeling of connection that is hard to beat in communities.
Of course, there’s also opportunities for applying for much needed funding and to network with other potential funders using the three Pillars, the mainstay of Beautiful Scotland… Environment, Community and Horticulture.
It may be that your group has something to shout about (and most do, which is fantastic), whether its Mink control, red squirrel protection, flood plain development, 3D sculptures or good practice in the community, we want to hear about it and recognise what communities all over Scotland are doing in proving that individuals and groups care so much about their environment and want to promote their local village, town, urban area or city.
Pre-Covid, it was wonderful to join up with groups at Award Ceremonies, training days and seminars. The sense of national community has been continued by Keep Scotland Beautiful through Zoom seminars utilising training methods and in the issuing of Awards. In doing this, it’s been so good to keep that sense of community and achievement in what has been a very hard time for all. I hope someday in the near future, we can get fully back to those moments of anticipation of the award ceremony and to continue in the camaraderie we all feel as part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful programmes and awards.
Finally, without the skill and dedication of the Keep Scotland Beautiful staff, our tour days would be very different; it’s all about working together and with communities. This joined up working is only going from strength to strength and, as I said earlier, it’s important that all involved have fun in what they are doing and keep on loving it! I would say our Scotland is all the better for all those people making the commitment to their local environment, please keep doing it!
If you are part of a community group and would like to join the Beautiful Scotland and It’s Your Neighbourhood family, registration is open until 30 April. If your group works with others to improve areas across your village, town or city, then check out Beautiful Scotland. If you’re involved in e.g. a community allotment, a friends of park group, or have adopted a derelict piece of land to turn into green space, then check out It’s Your Neighbourhood. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Juliette.
We are also looking for new volunteer assessors and judges to provide a vital link between us and the communities we support, encourage and reward. Find out more about our opportunities to volunteer.