Burghead, Hopeman and Cummingston
Moray is an area that lies in the North East of Scotland. Work in Moray took place during stage two of the Rural Wisdom project from 2019 to 2021. Rural Wisdom Moray was most active in Burghead, Hopeman and Cummingston, the coastal communities north of Elgin. People in Moray asked to be part of the Rural Wisdom project as a way of taking forward ideas that people had been developing over the past few years. Local people and organisations had previously taken part in Rural Wisdom workshops, used publications, and found ideas from other places helpful, so wanted to be part of this wider partnership. The geographic scope of Rural Wisdom grew further as people in Moray raised issues that affected more people nearby. One of the impacts of Covid-19 was that more connections were made with people and community groups in Aberdeenshire as part of the work taking place in and around Moray.
How it all began
In June 2019 we started to work with the communities along the Moray Coast in collaboration with other local groups, local authority and community services, talking to as many people as possible about what worked well in their rural communities and what could be improved to make a real impact on their day-to-day lives. The strongest response was that to make things work for older people they needed to work for people of all ages. As the work progressed, we found that our role as a connector was one of the most beneficial parts of the project. Local groups such as Energising Moray and The Fairer Moray Forum Action Group had great ideas and big strategic plans, so we are supporting them to join the dots between ideas, inspiration, resources, and action.
Many local people raised several intersecting issues relating to energy provision, the most pressing of which was the desire for renewable energy alternatives to alleviate fuel insecurity and address global climate challenges. Additionally, providing support with transport and access to community spaces were equally pressing matters of importance to these communities. Given the impact of Covid19, focus was also on connecting people during a time of increased isolation and ensuring that everyone had the essentials they needed. Rural Wisdom supported the local response led by the quick-thinking and well-connected local community organisations such as The Burghead and Cummingston Community Council.
A creation of a small Community Bus service is a great example of the brilliant partnership work across the area. We introduced local groups to our Welsh colleagues at Pembrokeshire Association for Community Transport Organisations (PACTO) with a view to replicating the ‘Take Me Too’ lift sharing initiative. This helps local people get around and access vital services, support, and activities in the area. This was actioned by an energetic bus committee made up of Moray Council, tsiMoray, Rural Wisdom and local people, all committed to connecting communities physically, socially and intergenerationally. The initiative went on to be part of the local COVID response by transporting people to vaccination centres in Lossiemouth.
Energy and fuel
A survey on the issue of energy and fuel received an overwhelming response and provided vital information that was shared at conferences, and during conversations with Home Energy Scotland and local MSP Richard Lochead. An Energy Advice Event was also set up to assist people with the information necessary to access support. A number of steps to tackle this problem have been outlined, including the creation of a Development Trust and inclusion in the Scottish Government’s ‘Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies’ (LHEES) pilot.
Opening up community spaces
In Cummingston there was a plan to take over the public toilet building at the beach via a lease or Community Asset Transfer. There was a real need for a community space in Cummingston as there was no public space at all and members of the community were keen to address this. Similarly, Hopeman had an unused library and school building that many would love to see used so Rural Wisdom is exploring what can be done with this resource.
What we achieved
Much was done in the immediate aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic to provide hands on support for those in the local community and to combat the isolation of this period. By taking a collaborative approach we have been able to involve hundreds of local people in the issues that are important to them. We have been able to connect people with national conversations and innovative ideas. This approach not only raises awareness of the local issues but takes steps towards long term solutions that will work for the entire area.