View from the Chair – David Watt, Scottish Forum Chair
Time has certainly flown since my appointment in August 2019, and few could have predicted the extraordinary times that this period would entail with the global pandemic. I hope that all of our members, and colleagues, friends, and families, have been as safe as possible during this period. I am sure, like me, you are looking forward to some more “normal” times returning over the coming months and years.
A busy year
I am pleased to say that despite the challenges from Covid, it has been a busy 12 months for the Scottish Forum. A strategy session with our steering group in May last year led to a new external briefing document, containing a new value proposition, and a first logic model for the Forum. This solid underpinning will soon be augmented by new Communications and Business Engagement Strategies, which will help guide future priorities. Our steering group has also been pleased to welcome some new organisations as members, including Business in the Community Scotland (BITC), and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), as well as receiving a positive membership recommitment from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS).
The Scottish Forum working groups have also continued to develop and to grow in number. We were delighted to integrate Ecosystem Services Community Scotland (ESCom) into the Forum as a new working group, and host a first ESCom event with over 90 attendees. Our Sustainable Land Management group continues to play an important role in joining up key stakeholders in this vital policy area, whilst our new Basecamp site has given the conservation finance community in Scotland an online home to boost discussion and connectivity. We have convened a new Advisory Group to support development and delivery of an Oceans of Value project, and have also significantly increased our engagement with the private sector, through a new Climate Action Group with BITC.
Communicating natural capital approaches remains an important priority for us, and we have engaged with Scottish Government around both the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) and Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services (RESAS) consultations over the last 12 months. Events also play an important role in awareness-raising around the natural capital agenda across our membership and beyond. In addition to the ESCom event I mentioned, our recent joint event with Scottish Environment LINK, examined the biggest opportunities for Scotland’s land-based natural capital in the context of the “green recovery”.
On the horizon
Moving forward, one important priority will be to put the Scottish Forum on a more sustainable funding model, and we are close to finalising a new funding and membership model, which we will soon be sharing with our membership. We do have to look to the wider membership to support our activities at this crucial juncture, and to do that we have to find the appropriate level of resource.
Coming from a business background to the post of Scottish Forum chair, I am also delighted that we are developing “100 Business Actions for Nature & Climate”. This project will seek to showcase some straightforward practical actions that businesses can take to make a positive impact for the environment, building on the increased focus on environmental actions around CoP 26, and increasing our engagement with businesses across Scotland.
More generally, over the next year, and beyond, we want to see ‘natural capital’ continue to gain in terms of profile and impact, and for natural capital approaches to be built into more decision-making processes in the private, public and third sectors. Amid talk of a green recovery, the road to, and legacy from, COP 26 are founded on both the need to meet the challenges of climate change, as well as the linked biodiversity crisis. There has perhaps never been a more prescient time for the connectivity, co-operation, and catalysing ability of the Scottish Forum to be called into action. It looks set to be another very busy 12 months.