Creating a National Advisory Committee for Scotland

Proposed changes would see the Cycling UK Scotland committee become a National Advisory Committee. What do the proposals mean and how will they benefit our work in Scotland? Cycling UK Scotland Chair Lizzie Reather explains all

The history

Some of our members will remember a time when as well as local CTC Member Groups, there was a set of regional groups called District Associations – for Scotland, Yorkshire, and so on. Over time, District Associations were stood down, but there was a need for a group in Scotland, so the then CTC Scotland Committee came into being. This group had a specific remit to understand and advise on the distinct governmental, legal and regulatory frameworks in Scotland, and to support the organisation’s work in Scotland at a time when there were no staff based here. There were no comparable groups in the other nations of the UK, so CTC Scotland, later Cycling UK Scotland, was treated constitutionally (somewhat inappropriately) as a large Member Group covering all members in Scotland.

Over the years since I have been involved with the Committee, we have had numerous conversations about the best ways to support and develop our organisation, its staff and members in Scotland. Discussions about governance can feel academic, but we have always wanted to be clear about our relationship to Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees, senior staff, and staff working in Scotland; and how we work with the Scottish Government, local government in Scotland, other Scottish organisations and of course our members and volunteers.

An Advisory Committee for Scotland

The real journey began in 2018 when the new Cycling UK strategy was presented to the Scotland AGM. One of the key areas of the strategy was the need for Cycling UK to be more responsive to the needs of different places. At the AGM, James Scott and Matt Mallinder (Cycling UK’s directors of behaviour change & development and influence & engagement respectively) outlined a proposal for a Scotland Strategy and the potential to find a more suitable constitutional role for an advisory board for Scotland; if a successful model could be found, this applied in the other devolved nations.

The Cycling UK Scotland Committee met regularly throughout 2019, developing proposals, considering sector best practice and discussing these with members of Cycling UK’s senior management team. After several iterations and agreement by the Scotland Committee, Cycling UK’s Trustee Board met in July and signed off a proposal for a National Advisory Committee for Scotland.

Throughout the process of developing these proposals, the committee have discussed (at length!) questions such as:

  • How will the Advisory Committee work with Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees, staff working across the UK, and staff based in Scotland?
  • How do we ensure that the Committee’s membership combines passion, loyalty, skills and expertise?
  • What responsibility (if any) does an Advisory Committee have for operational delivery, holding funds, organising events such as the AGM and Gathering, communicating to members in Scotland, and coordinating volunteers?
  • What would happen if funding changes greatly reduced the number of Cycling UK staff working in Scotland?

So what do the proposals actually say?

An advisory committee is defined as “a collection of individuals who bring unique knowledge and skills which augment the knowledge and skills of the formal Board of Directors in order to guide the organisation more effectively.” The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise, inform and be a critical friend to help Cycling UK be the most effective organisation across its activities in Scotland.

It is also anticipated that successful initiatives, conceived and implemented in Scotland – such as the successful partnership working on accessibility and inclusion, and reaching out to rural and geographically isolated communities – will be reported and advised to Cycling UK so that they may be applied across the UK where appropriate.

In terms of changes to the way the committee works, as a member based in Scotland you may not notice a difference at all! The new Terms of Reference include a stronger link to Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees and senior management team; we retain our ability to hold and spend funds and, as now, we are not Trustees and do not have responsibility for recruiting or managing staff, or making operational decisions.

The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise, inform and be a critical friend to help Cycling UK be the most effective organisation across its activities in Scotland

As now, members of the Committee are to be elected at an annual Gathering or co-opted, and nominees shall be members of Cycling UK normally resident in Scotland, but members will have a tenure of three years (one third of the committee elected each year) to provide more stability and continuity.

Your Committee will continue to work closely with staff in Scotland and beyond; represent Scottish concerns and opportunities and inform policy positions that affect Scotland; help to build partnerships and influence, and maintain links with other relevant groups and organisations in Scotland covering issues as wide as trains and coaches, outdoor access, major strategic road improvements, and spreading the joy and independence of cycling more widely.

What happens next?

Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees have approved the proposal, and subject to agreement at the Cycling UK Scotland AGM, the new Advisory Committee will be constituted and the old committee formally dissolved. We hope that as many as possible of our current committee members will continue to use their considerable skills and experience to support Cycling UK in Scotland, but there will be vacancies and we are delighted to hear from any members in Scotland who would like to find out more about joining the Advisory Committee.

I have a question…

I’m sure that many of you will have questions about these proposals. I would like to reassure you that we have not taken these changes lightly and, as a Committee, have tried to do what we think is best for the future of Cycling UK in Scotland. There will be an opportunity for members to ask questions and make comments at the AGM, and we will also host a Q&A session on the evening of Tuesday 27 October, to which all members in Scotland are welcome. Joining details for both will be circulated to members shortly.

Thank you

I would like to thank my fellow committee members throughout my period as Chair, the members of Cycling UK staff based in Scotland and senior management colleagues for their untiring efforts over what has sometimes felt like a 21-switchback Alpine adventure. (For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t have the legs!)

Scotland AGM and Gathering 2020

Finally in terms of plans for the AGM, I’m hugely disappointed that we won’t be able to hold the usual AGM and Gathering face-to-face, with bike rides and soup, this year. As the AGM has to take place before the end of November, we felt that a shorter virtual event should be held to deal with the essential business. I hope that a Scotland Gathering can take place “in real life” in 2021, but as my time as Chair is almost at an end I will have to hand that decision over to my successor!