Page 1

Transition Scotland Support Case Study Series: Number 06 March 2011

Transition Black Isle THE BLACK ISLE FOCUS Kind of place: Rural dispersed community Where is it?: 100km2 of peninsula North of Inverness Population: 9, 573 Involvement with Transition: Official Initiative (registered with Transition Network) Funding: Climate Challenge Funded until March 2011, some HIE funding.

HOW did Transition Black Isle begin? The Black Isle is a peninsula, and was effectively an island until the building of bridges linked it more easily to the mainland. Transition Black Isle (TBI) was set up in February 2009. There are about 80 active members from across the dispersed communities of the Black Isle. TBI’s aims are ‘Learning and taking actions as a community to live sustainably in response to the challenges of peak oil, climate change and other limits to growth.’ (TBI website)

TBI want to help people to take positive steps towards living in a sustainable way, without having to rely on fossil fuels.

TBI were an unincorporated not for profit association, although they are now becoming a limited company with charitable status.

The Black Isle’s distinctive geography and situation make it particularly vulnerable to the challenges that communities may face in the future, but having an ‘island’ feel also gives an understanding to the people involved of what sustainable communities need to look like.

What have the problems been?

TBI has food projects, energy projects and transport projects, but more importantly, they take time to enjoy and celebrate what they have done and achieved. They have several events each year which draw in a wide spectrum of people - from energy question time events to open days to ceilidhs.

As with any group of people who are committed to a cause, it can often seem like there is too much to do by too few. Many Transition groups have to deal with having small core groups of activists, and burnout can be a reality. The Black Isle is no different, although given the population dispersal, their involvement level is quite high. TBI have been looking at their priorities and being realistic about what they can achieve, whilst still moving forward with the impressive set of projects described overleaf.


THE group have held two ‘Greening Homes and Gardens’ events to show case the work already being done by people to address energy issues. These events have been well attended and have offered people the opportunity to look around people’s homes and see domestic scale energy production and efficiency measures. Added to this, a central hall is provided with information, seminars and products available to help people with information and tools to take measures themselves.


MESSAGE STICK... THE energy group are currently looking at what range of activities they can organise through the year, to use the momentum gained through the Greening Homes and Gardens event. These are smaller events that maintain interest in the issues until the following year’s event.

ENERGY FOR THE FUTURE ENERGY GROUP PROJECTS This group looks at how the Black Isle can be more energy independent, given the difficulty of getting clean energy into the future, and the lack of natural gas on the peninsula. The TBI Energy Group are looking into the possibilities of wind power on the peninsula, and are considering what the implications for any income generated from such a scheme would be. The group also have smart meters and an anemometer for loan, and have donated a selection of books on relevant topics to the library. There is also some useful information on energy efficiency in the home on their website, provided by the Energy Group’s convener, Martin Sherring.

TBI run Open Doors events (see Focus Box) as well as a successful Energy Crunch Question Time in 2010, which engaged a diverse range of participants in discussion. The event had representation from an MSP, an architect, a farmer and an energy expert to provide balance and differing perspectives on the issue. How do you run a successful energy event? ‘Lots of hard work and dedication! A mix of information and real life demonstration seems to work really well. It taps into people’s natural curiosity which helps. ‘For example, with ‘Greening Homes and Gardens’, people enjoy visiting other people’s houses and getting an idea of what is possible in their area.’ Penny Edwards, Energy Group

See: http://www. draughtproofing.asp

Films, workshops, visits to particular installations (such as a Pellet boiler in a village hall) and talks are being considered. It’s a good idea to think about how to maintain a presence in the mind of the community. People are more likely to become interested and involved if they can see there is consistent activity happening.

Find a range of useful resources at



Communities on the Black Isle are fairly dispersed, and getting to anywhere else means travelling a fair distance. People naturally rely on their cars to get from place to place.

Many of Black Isle activities attempt to ensure that people have to travel less far to get the things they need. The local food directory helps people source local food, community markets give people a chance to buy locally and share produce, community gardens support people to grow and learn skills in a communal setting.

The existing bus routes are patchy, and the group is campaigning to have more regular routes to places that people often travel to. There are also plans to look at linking Events through the year up a walking route across the provide entertainment and Black Isle. information - such as film showings - and there are There is discussion on the plenty of ways for people group’s forum about trying to living on Black Isle to get save the Highland Bike Bus involved. which is a bus service that has a trailer for 11 bikes. It is Although ensuring that often used by cycle tourists public transport provision through high season, but is an is adequate, the group are opportunity to support lower looking more widely at carbon travel in places that making local living a reality can seem difficult to get to. for people so that they can spend more time enjoying Groups like TBI can often the beautiful place they call highlight issues like this to a home. wider audience.

LOCAL FOOD DIRECTORY TBI have produced a directory with details of local producers, what they make, and maps showing where to find them. Having all of the information in one place makes buying local easier. They are available through the post offices and library as well as food shops.

HAVING A SAY... THE forum is well used on TBI’s website. They have 89 members and 600 separate posts. This is another way of sharing ideas and thoughts in a dispersed community, although it does rely on people having consistent Internet access for the debates to remain live.

PRESS AND PR TRANSITION Black Isle use the skills that are in the local community to good effect. One of these is Press and PR, which ensures that TBI get good coverage of their activities and that the community can see what’s happening.

CELEBRATION CEILIDH AN important aspect not to miss out on is celebrating what you’ve achieved. TBI are holding a ceilidh in March 2011 to celebrate their second birthday. Many happy returns!

Find a range of useful resources at

FOOD ISSUES THE ‘Highland Food Challenge’ began as ‘The Black Isle Diet’, but the area was too small. – simple things like milk come 20 miles from Nairn at nearest. A ‘food challenge’ seemed clearer than the word diet. Deciding how often people have to fill in their records is also key - too often and people begin to feel like it’s a chore and not often enough and it can fall away. ‘It was difficult following the momentum of people who signed up to the HFC, so we started a monthly email newsletter to keep people up to date and inspired.’ Anne Thomas, Food Group

FOOD FOR THOUGHT LOCAL Food and Community Gardens

local food, and swap recipes and ideas.

Local food on the Black Isle is an interesting phenomenon. Although over 80% of the land is ideal for agriculture and growing, it is surprisingly difficult to eat locally. Transition Black Isle are attempting to solve this in different ways.

Highland Food Challenge (HFC) is a scheme that people can sign up to and monitor the amount of food they are eating which is local, seasonal, organic and meat free. They use a shaded plate which is filled in on 3 days a month.

Grow North is helping people learn to grow delicious food. Community gardens have been established at Loch na Mhoid near Muir of Ord and at Netherton in Culbokie. The Highland Food Challenge is enabling people to discover the joys of eating more fresh

People sign up to the challenge for three months, and as of October 2010, there were around 40 people involved. There are three community gardens on the isle. The one in Netherton, had a CCF funded Community Gardener to support the volunteers who came to work there. This garden has a polytunnel and has wild boar/ tamworth cross pigs as neighbours. People are free to share in the produce in return for some work in the garden, and different events are hosted here – such as the tattie picking ‘Fork to Fork’ event held in November. Community markets have proven very successful. The one which is held in North Kessock now has more stall holders than can be comfortably managed, and a second slot is being planned. It is also now being self-funded. A series of food demonstrations was held after the markets in 2011.The first was preserving followed by cheese making and juice making. A new market is planned in Cromarty for May 2011.

Find a range of useful resources at

Case Study Transition Black Isle  

Transition Black Isle case study

Case Study Transition Black Isle  

Transition Black Isle case study