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Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society

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Letter from SAGS president, Derek Livesey

Dear Member,

It was a great honour to be nominated as President by our Society Trustees.  I look forward to working closely with the them and all our partners on behalf of you and our many members, and those who will be joining us in the future.  

I’d like to take a few minutes to introduce myself and to tell you about my ambitions for our organisation during this exciting next phase of our work. I’ll keep it brief - after all, I’m sure you’d rather be spending time on the plot instead of hearing from me, but please do keep reading – I think we are at a turning point and I want you to be part of it.

In short, I love my allotment. A place for passion, connection, growing, care and friendship. My wife Emma and I have worked ours at Merrylee in Glasgow’s southside, for 17 years. During that time we have gone from enthusiastic beginners to experienced ‘not-beginners.’  We are always learning.  We grow a wide variety of what we like to eat and look at, using a combination of traditional growing and some new fangled methods – we’re always willing to try things, and although not formally organic,  we subscribe to those techniques, encouraging biodiversity and sustainability.   I was encouraged to join the Merrylee plot committee early on and was pleased to become President in 2017.   During my years on that committee I gained enormous experience in how to successfully manage allotments:

  • Start by having a team of like-minded and open-minded folk who will get their sleeves rolled up, who will challenge each idea to ensure viability and improve its robustness. A team of volunteers who are willing to stand accountable.

 

  • Identify ways to improve fund-raising opportunities and ensure that every investment made is sustainable, bringing positive benefits to as many as possible, for as long as possible.

 

  • Recognise useful resources and use them wisely.

 

  • Encourage community, so members feel part of a movement they can support, influence and develop -  always improving for next generation Plotholders.

 

  • Above all, promote and protect our members, support their interests and do it fairly and with discretion. 

 

That work is rarely easy, but the good well outweighs the bad and I am proud of the ongoing work at Merrylee and what the committee I lead have achieved so far. I am now ready to use that experience in supporting allotment garden sites and their members, all across Scotland.

And so to SAGS. It’s an institution that’s been around for longer than any of us, and one which has been through a number of iterations to arrive where we are today – an incorporated Scottish Charity. With this new status comes new responsibilities. New governance. New trustees and board structure. New collaborations, along with some very familiar aims  and partnerships.  The purpose of SAGS has always been to champion and serve the interests of allotment gardeners in Scotland. That won’t change (the clue is in the name) however, if this is to be successful,  the organisation must begin a programme initiatives to see this modernisation in practice.

SAGS will become more dynamic, relevant and accountable. It must rebuild confidence to campaign at the highest levels - in collaboration with the Scottish Government, your local authorities, our ‘common interest’ partners to realise those specific aims. In our own parlance, SAGS must cultivate the best environment in which to grow, to flourish, to set seed and spread,  nourishing all those who we come into contact with. In order to do that we must find creative new ways to engage and grow the membership.  We must create strong bonds with groups from education, social enterprise and bio-diversity. Above all we must, together, tackle the issue of Land – identifying unused but highly suitable areas on which to develop new spaces for allotments, alongside our colleagues involved with other community based growing enterprises.

SAGS will work with others to produce innovative allotment and gardening initiatives in every area of the country, supporting the creation of new sites to bring communities together and in doing so, tackle the ever growing problem of waiting lists.  We must identify new revenue streams in order to deliver gardening opportunities to the widest range of interested people and we will continue to produce best practice guidelines and online resources to support both new and established groups in managing their associations and supporting their members. Every site is different but many share the same issues, and SAGS will be on hand to help, whether privately operated or through the Local Authority, all across the country.

I already have some ideas for the board to consider and I will be reaching out again to you all soon to get YOUR thoughts on how best to approach some of the issues we face. In short, I intend to use tradition with innovation to bring you, the membership with us, encouraging fresh thinking with an attitude which aims for successful collaboration and team working.   For instance. A piece of work I would like SAGS to tackle is modernising local authority allotment rules. I know from my experience in Glasgow that revision is required and it’s the same across the country.  I believe this is important as our allotment sites cannot flourish or be recognised as useful, relevant assets if they are entrenched in the 1950s.

There have been difficult times for SAGS, not least when trying to find an identity which provides clear messages of mission to members and to others…  but that was then, and I implore all those who have lost sight of SAGS to support me, the Board and our Society, in making Scotland’s allotment community bigger, stronger and more relevant in a time when physical and mental health, food poverty and isolation are rising challenges to be met face on.  Allotment folk are a hardy, innovative lot – precisely the kind of character which will find a way to bring about positive change, and not give up till it’s achieved. 

I look forward to meeting all of you at some point and, covid vaccines allowing on your plots.  I wish you good health, kindness and wonderful gardening for 2021.

Welcome to the new SAGS.

Thank you,

Sincerely,

President

Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society