What attracted you to working in SEPA?
It was the prospect of working in an organisation that could make a real difference on climate change and sustainability.
My degrees are in geography and planning, so the environment has always been at the heart of my work. I was one of the first ‘environment officers’ in Scotland and spent nearly 25 years working (mostly) at regional and local level. SEPA now provides me with an opportunity to work on climate change at national level.
The agency had done a lot of good early work on climate change before I started, and I wanted to be involved in taking the work forward.
What does your role involve / what are you working on?
Much of my job is about ‘policy’ – crafting and maintaining a series of activities and processes that help the agency tackle climate change. These make up the climate change plan – Our climate challenge. The job has a number of aspects – promotion, monitoring, supporting and delivery – which means I work with colleagues in all parts of the agency – as well as with people in our partner organisations. On working with partners, I don’t think we appreciate we can pick up the phone and speak to government in Scotland – that’s not a privilege our colleagues elsewhere enjoy.
Apart from Our climate challenge, I’m currently working with the Scottish and UK governments on a new assessment of the risks posed to us all by climate change. It’s easy to think of the problem as one for the future and affecting distant places. But the effects are here and now – and we think these will get more severe. We can’t switch off the weather or easily change the climate – although we’ve unwittingly done this over the last two centuries. But we can be as prepared as possible, so we are less liable to suffer loss and injury as climate change unfolds. It seems to be quite a privilege to work on something that’s as challenging and worthwhile.
It seems to me that there’s never been a better time to work at SEPA as we change to become a 21st century environment agency. With our new statutory purpose, committed colleagues and a clearer sense of direction, it makes you want to come to work – even on these grey November mornings!
What are your green credentials?
All the usual that I’m sure is commonplace – recycling, energy efficiency at home, buying green, organic and Fair Trade and running a hybrid car. Like many people, we live in an old building – ours is Victorian and ‘listed’. This means we can’t do things like external cladding (which an energy adviser once suggested we do!) but we have the usual adaptations like a condensing boiler and secondary glazing on the large windows.
For getting about I drive a hybrid Toyota. More unusually I don’t fly – but travel to Europe by train both for holidays and for work. To date, my limits are a winter work journey to central Sweden and several holiday trips to Florence and Rome. It takes longer but you can relax, get a lot of reading done and cut your carbon footprint, and you see places that are normally lost to you, which I think gives you a better appreciation of our neighbours and the environment we share.
What’s your favourite Scottish environment?
I love Glasgow with its magnificent Victorian buildings. You can travel and see exotic places, but it’s always good to know you can come back to Glasgow. That said, I feel (almost) as fond of Edinburgh for its history and its place as our capital – we’re really lucky to have two such wonderful but contrasting cities side by side.
If pushed on countryside, I’d have to say Speyside, towards Loch Morlich and Cairngorm. The Caledonian Forest nestling at the foot of our highest group of mountains is just about the best of Scotland’s scenery and environment in one place.