2007 - 2021

Possible Scotland

Possible Scotland is a travelling workshop that investigates Scotland’s opportunities through people and place. Lateral North, who are running the project, aim to listen to local people and uncover prosperous projects throughout the country visiting up to 50 destinations in Scotland throughout 2016.  The project aims to develop communities future visionings of their local context and convey ideas to politicians, activists and local authorities.  These workshops provide a voice between each community and the people involved in future decision making. The project will result in a the development of a contemporary Atlas of Scotland and an online database which will be the cumulative voice of hundreds and thousands of people from Scotland. Lateral North believe Scotland is awash with potential, ambition and opportunities and they hope you join them on this journey; a journey of a future Possible Scotland.1This story begins on a train back from Helmsdale to Inverness. For those of you have never taken that journey, it is a spectacular setting as you travel along the north east coast of Scotland with the Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray Firth’s as your backdrop. The two and a half hour journey is excessive for the relatively short distance travelled, but this train is the only line which runs to the north of Scotland, to Wick and Thurso, stopping off at small towns and villages on its trundle. 2Helmsdale is one of those outposts; a village with a few hundred people but a hub of activity – it’s 2014 Creative Place award confirms this. At the heart of this creative community is the Museum and Arts Centre, Timespan. This journey north was specifically directed towards Timespan. Less than a year old as a company at this point in November 2014 we had been invited to be the keynote speaker at their ‘True North’ conference in March 2015 to discuss the work we had been engaged in until that point. 3We’d taken this opportunity to go and visit Anna and the team at Timespan though in November as there seemed to be so many similar ideas between our respective organisations. It turned out their was an abundance.

A night of taking in Edwyn Collins film ‘The Possibilities are Endless’ at Timespan was followed by the train journey down where we talked and schemed and discussed ideas with Anna. She asked a simple question to kick it all off: what work could we do together?

It was a question we had billions of answers for but the answer we settled on was this: “our practice, its ethos and everything that we do is based around future visioning. We’ve already investigated the macro scale through our atlas, so now we are keen to work with communities throughout Scotland and uncover their potential. Ideally we’d travel around communities and form an interactive network so they can talk to each other about the positive and negative projects they’ve done and how similar ones could be applied elsewhere.”

“So what do you need to make this happen?”

“Three months to work on the project and a camper van to convert”.

Our conversation drifted elsewhere and we never thought anything else of it. Then came the phone call on the 5th of January – it was Anna: “I can give you two months to work on Possible Scotland. You need to get a camper van though. Oh, and I want you to present the finished project at the True North conference at the start of March. Can you do it?”

“Hell yeah”


Shit. We don’t have a camper van.

The next two months were a blur. Somewhere between that phone call and applying a lick of paint to our vehicle in a car park in Dunkeld the night before our first workshop we had managed to acquire a camper van, convert it with local materials using local fabricators, find six communities who wanted to work with the project, find suitable places to host workshops, arrange what the content of each workshop was and pick up an author on the way who ended up blogging the journey for us (it was her camper van after all). It was an exhausting two months, but on the 27th of February we took to the road.

5-2Over the next seven days we visited Dunkeld, Dundee, Shapinsay (Orkney), Tongue and Melness, Applecross and Lairg before arriving on the opening night of the True North conference in Helmsdale on the 5th of March. In those seven days we hosted a total of 10 workshops ranging from future visioning to creative writing and product design to architectural solutions, travelling a total of 768 miles and engaging over 200 people in the project. The project on a whole was a huge success and one which has resulted in us working with several of the communities that we visited further.

We intentionally visited demographically different communities from cities and towns to rural, island and remote areas of Scotland to see what different problems, opportunities and ambitions presented themselves, and while there was many different issues affecting each community there were several themes which continued to crop up on our tour. 6

These themes included affordable housing (and a lack of it in both rural and urban contexts), land ownership, broadband, infrastructure, governance, the referendum, healthcare (and in particular elderly care), connections and many more. However, the tour allowed us to develop projects with specific themes.

In Lairg we met the wonderful Joan. She has lived her entire life in Lairg and seen it go from being a key nodal point in the North Highlands to becoming a town few people pass through now that the bridges at Kylesku and Dornoch. Now retired Joan is looking for care options but with services at a minimum within the town she is facing the realistic scenario that she will have to move to a larger population centre for future care. The conversation between ourselves and Sue afterwards focussed on Joan and how she has seen her community die and is now facing the prospect of not being able to die in the community where she has lived her entire life.

7This problem is prevalent throughout rural Scotland and as such we have been working alongside Saol (an Edinburgh based multidisciplinary company) and Dualchas Architects to provide a turnkey service for a new model of care in the community that builds on successful models from New Zealand and Netherlands amongst other places.

In Applecross we worked with the Primary School children who currently inhabit an old Victorian school house along the peninsula’s coastline with views from outside towards the Cuillins on Skye. Inside though is a different story with the classrooms windows having a sill beginning at 1m. The kids, of course, can not see this fantastic view and so we worked with them to design their own outdoor classroom to be situated on the patch of grass in front of the school which is currently not used. Even at such a young age the children had a strong sense of sustainable development with many of the drawings having wind turbines or solar panels a key part of the structure as well as including nature as part of the design. This is a project which we are also currently working on and hope that similar models can be developed throughout Scotland for outdoor learning.

And finally the theme which continued to be referred to is the lack of connections between our remote and island communities and the Scottish mainland. In Orkney the question continued to arise of tunneling between islands such as Shapinsay and Rousay and the Orcadian Mainland, as well as connecting Orkney to the Scottish mainland, while reinstating the ferry service between Toscaig (Applecross Peninsula) and Kyle of Lochalsh would mean that secondary school children would be able to stay within their local community rather than go to boarding school from the age of 11.

8The pilot Possible Scotland tour was a huge success and created a lot of conversation at the True North conference and has continued to ever since. However, now we want to take it to the next stage and connect up not only six communities but the whole of Scotland to highlight the opportunities, ideas and ambitions of people, organisations and communities throughout Scotland. And we want you to be involved!

Possible Scotland is a travelling workshop that investigates Scotland’s opportunities through local people and community. We will be visiting up to 50 destinations throughout Scotland in 2016 documenting how you see Scotland’s future.  We will involve politicians, activists and local authorities, providing a voice for your community and its future. We are working in collaboration with community orientated organisations the length and breadth of Scotland to deliver this project.

We will share your ideas on an online database and showcase these community workshops on a national and international platform.  At the end of the tour we will be producing a contemporary atlas of Scotland that provides a collaborative vision for a better future. A future that has economic benefits, increases productive land and seascapes, and enables people to initiate change in their local community. A future that can break down barriers, connect individuals and showcase the potential that Scotland’s communities have at their fingertips.

Our tour will facilitate out of the box thinking in the form of creative workshops.  We will deliver the project in a custom built camper van throughout Scotland. We will visit every nook and cranny providing travelling workshops for your community which will facilitate communication, help planning and regeneration, rethink infrastructure through new technologies, offer system thinking and visioning, and help your community create a stronger identity.

We want to hear you extravagant and fanciful imaginings as well as your more practical ideas and solutions. Tell us what you want to see changed in your community. Tell us your bugbear, your scunner, yer gripe.

A key part of our ethos is the promotion and distribution of materials and products made in Scotland. If you are a business we can take your product on tour and collaborate on meaningful throughout Scotland’s communities .

Lateral North will work with the community to encourage local development from a grass roots level. Future visioning within Scotland and its communities will see joined up thinking where we can learn from each other, work together and showcase what Scotland has to offer.

We believe Scotland is awash with potential and look forward to participating in a future Possible Scotland. We look forward to having you join us on this journey in 2016!

To find out how to get involved go to our crowdfunding page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/possible-scotland/x/13182073#/


Comments (6)

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  1. Graeme McAllan says:

    What a brilliiant, brilliant idea – well done Bella, and Lateral Scotland – good luck and best wishes for this project 😉

  2. Gordon Benton says:

    As very proud owner of your Atlas, I am intrigued to see the inspiring, imaginative and positive follow up. I would value an opportunity to meet to throw ideas into the pot for discussion, ideas that have been formed as an architect, urban planner and sustainable environmentalist, creating ‘green field’ developments in over 20 countries. meanwhile may I wish you and your team(s) all success.

    1. Lateral North says:

      Thanks for your comment Gordon and if you want to contact us at office@lateralnorth.com we’d be interested to hear more of your ideas! Thanks!

  3. Mathew says:

    Sounds a lot more positive than their previous Let’s Exploit the Arctic phase.

  4. Craig P says:

    I can’t understand why there isn’t better infrastructure in the Highlands. I think the problem is we (and this holds true for both Scotland and the UK) are an urban nation, and the urban mind thinks of islands and highlands as remote and wild and to be preserved as-is and as peopleless as possible. But travel round Norway or the Faroes and you soon ask why there aren’t tunnels connecting Unst with the rest of Shetland or Orkney with Scotland. Why is the population of Faroe 48k when the slightly larger Shetland has 22k people and more fertile Orkney only 20k?

  5. Patrick says:

    Merry Christmas
    Happy New Year 2017

    During the Holly Season, our
    Thoughts turns gratefully to those
    have made our Independence success possible.

    It is in this spirit that we say:
    Thank You and Best wishes for the
    Holidays and New Year
    From your friends at the Diaspora.

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