Rural and Environment
Leading Ideas for Better Lives
Director, Knowledge Exchange and Impact, SEFARI
The view from a hilltop can be magical – that sense of space and scale, the feeling of the wind on your face. If you’re lucky you can feel the sun, otherwise it might be the rain or sleet (if we’re talking Scotland). You might be up there at night where the grandest of vistas, into the stars, might be on display. The smells of the local environment or how the ground feels under your feet might add to the mix. So might the noises around you, of wildlife, traffic, water, people. Or maybe you have compete silence. Solitude.
In our busy lives it is often hard to take time out to think, or to work through a problem. Up a hill is perhaps somewhere this can be easier – of course the hilltop could be in the countryside, but for most of us it is more likely to be in an urban environment. It need not be the top of a majestic Scottish Munro, and neither need it be the top of Dundee Law, Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat or in the Campsie Fells.
Wherever it might be, the view can be intoxicating – you can choose to look to the horizon, or try to make sense of the rich tapestry spread before you. Of course the longer you gaze, the more complex the view becomes – if you think of any hillside, for example, there may be many different factors at play generating texture: geology, soil type, topography, and so on. Woven across this environment are a myriad of land uses: communities, agriculture, industry, energy, water management, forestry, recreation, sporting, infrastructure. How to reconcile these is a challenge, particularly in a context where we face challenges such as climate change, and ensuring a thriving rural economy.
The Scottish Government funds research to better understand some of these complex dynamics and what shapes them – all with a view to improving how people in Scotland, and beyond, live their lives – and so generating what we can call Leading Ideas for Better Lives. The Government does this through its £250m Strategic Research Programme across food, land, agriculture and environment.
The research itself is delivered by six Research Institutes, each with global capability, expertise and reputation – but crucially they work in collaboration: Moredun Research Institute; Scotland’s Rural College; The James Hutton Institute; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland; The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen.
That collaboration is something to be celebrated and promoted, and today sees the launch of something new – SEFARI – established to represent this collective, and to work to improve how research is actually used, to improve its impact, and to increase value for money for the public purse – at home and abroad. Why SEFARI? Well it stands for Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes – but the influence and relevance stretches from mountain top to beyond the coastline, from large scale to individual choices.
SEFARI will aim to take people up a hill (usually metaphorically!) and try to ensure they have the right expert next to them to help understand the landscape – of course that landscape might be more regulatory or process related than the physical landscape, but the theory remains the same.
So it is that this week, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham MSP, went up a hill, Castlelaw in the Pentlands, to officially launch SEFARI. Perhaps over the next few days, if you can, you can try to take a little time out to get up a hill, or maybe just an incline. If that isn’t an option, then maybe just imagine yourself there…
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