Breaking records at the Scottish Gathering 2021

woman presenting at meeting
The Cycling UK Scotland Annual Gathering is an official meeting to elect the Scottish Advisory Committee for the coming year, reflect on the past year and hear some entertaining speakers. Chair Andrew Abbess reports on the last meeting and explains how you can get involved to make a difference for cycling in Scotland

The meeting took place on 28 November 2021. There was a dramatic start to the day – as a result of Storm Arwen the night before, all rail services in Scotland stopped on the Saturday morning, stranding some speakers and participants. Only 30 of the 50 people who had registered to attend in person were able to make it on the day. 

The new committee

Nonetheless we got on with the formal business and re-elected one third of the committee. The Scottish Advisory Committee for 2022 is:


Andrew Abbess (Chair)

Paul Timms (Secretary) 

Claire Connachan (Vice Chair)

Eileen Abbess (Treasurer)

Gary Cummins

Julia Loecherbach

Sam Shaw

David Parry

You may have noticed that the Chair and Treasurer share a surname. We are husband and wife. For good governance reasons I am not a signatory on the bank account so the two of us cannot write a cheque for the contents of the bank account and run away with it.

Ron Dalton stood down from the SAC after over five years of serving Cycling UK and CTC committees in Scotland. Ron was also Cycling UK’s guru on the tortuous A96 upgrade consultations with Transport Scotland. A certificate of thanks and card from Cycling UK chief executive Sarah Mitchell was presented to Ron. Unfortunately, Sarah was another victim of Storm Arwen and not able to join us on the day. 

How we’ve grown

It’s incredible to think that only five years ago, Cycling UK in Scotland had four staff members. Now we have a team of 39 - a remarkable transformation. This means that much of the work that committee members used to take on such as sitting on bodies like Cycling Scotland, Bikeability Scotland Delivery group, Paths for All, Transform Scotland and the like is now undertaken by Cycling UK employees.

It should be noted though that SAC members represent Cycling UK on the National Access Forum, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland and the Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance.

Looking back on 2021

2021 was difficult, with Covid ongoing, and many activities curtailed. Indeed, this meeting was the first time the SAC members had met in person, having spent the year regularly meeting on Zoom with Cycling UK director of influence and engagement Matt Mallinder.

As it was a Scottish Government election year, the Scottish Advisory Committee once again supported Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote in their campaign to influence candidates to support accessibility, infrastructure and investment for those walking, wheeling and cycling. 

Suzanne Forup, Cycling UK’s head of development for Scotland, was also stuck in the aftermath of Storm Arwen so her local colleague Gabriella Farquhar stepped in to update us on the amazing development projects Cycling UK has been running in Scotland.

Jim Densham provided updates on the excellent campaigns and policy work. Later Eileen Hamill gave an inspiring talk on a brand-new project called Access Bikes which enables people on low incomes to buy a bike via a credit union.

Before lunch, Christina Mackenzie left us all gobsmacked as she spoke about her world record Land’s End to John o’ Groats ride: 839 miles in under 52 hours.

I gave a brief talk about use of FOI requests to get access barriers removed from paths and landscape architect Sam Shaw spoke about his work “cycling for landscape design”. 

Our main speaker Andrew Sykes then delighted us with his audio-visual presentation “Berwick upon Tweed to the Butt of Lewis: 12 years of cycling Europe”, while also recording material on the day for his next blog post.

The variety and quality of the speakers were a hit with attendees, although the ventilation in the hall to comply with Covid regulations was less so, with some  complaining of an uncomfortably low temperature and others finding it difficult to hear some of the speakers over the sound of the air vents.

Get involved

The more members Cycling UK has in Scotland the more influence we have, so if you are not a member; please consider joining. If you are a member but not receiving emails or newsletters from Cycling UK, please do check with the membership team that they have your latest e-mail address correctly recorded on the member database. If you’re wondering what happened to the old Right to Ride network: it has transformed into the new Cycling UK Cycle Advocacy Network. There is a seemingly never ending list of public consultations and planning proposals to get stuck into and a new website full of resources and staff to support you.

The committee needs you

The committee is keen to co-opt up to two more members. The aim of our work is to harness local intelligence and experience, to inform the charity’s activities.

So we’re keen to have as diverse and inclusive a committee as possible, with people coming from a wide range of backgrounds, places, types of cycling and perspectives. We welcome applications from younger people and underrepresented groups in cycling, including ethnic minority groups.

In return for your passion, commitment and skills, we can offer you the chance to make a significant difference to cycling in Scotland and across the UK. Please take a look at the application pack if you’re interested in joining us.