Our Friends in the North
I’m a passionate believer in meeting customers face to face; not just to find out what they want from Public-i but also so that I can engage with them and learn more about what they do and think. As school holidays play havoc with availability during August in England and Wales it seemed to make sense to visit Scotland (whose schools return mid-month) particularly as we have just collected two more customers there.
Well twelve meetings, many hundreds of miles and thousands of calories later I’m glad I did. School-day camping trips to the Highlands might have prepared me for the scenery and weather but this trip has given me a deeper understanding of Scotland and the Scots.
The formation of a Scottish Parliament, the In/Out referendum, the recent UK general election and even the Labour Party Leadership contest have all made politics in Scotland interesting. What I hadn’t realised was how interested people are about it. Suddenly Councils used to eighty years of one party rule are faced with coalitions and parties happy to throw brickbats when in opposition are now having to make those difficult decisions themselves all under the shadow of austerity.
This renewed interest applies to all generations and the need for engagement has never been greater. It’s no surprise that one of the first steps on the road to digital engagement, the live streaming of Public Meetings, is being embraced and talked about across the country. In fact this week Scotland created UK history when the first day of a court case was broadcast live – a perfect use case for live streaming. Transparent democracy is here to stay and it appears that most people want it and want it now.
I decided to take the train and that was one of many wise decisions. Although full of people the experience is so much better than the cattle like experience offered by the option of flying. Not only can you get some work done but it also presents an opportunity to gaze out of the window at the splendour of the British Isles. I’m lucky enough to be able to see the sea from my office window but it’s still a wonderful experience to see sights such as the iconic bridges over the Tyne, Tweed and Forth.
My first meeting was in Aberdeen, a city that has benefited from the oil industry like no other in this country. Despite recent price fluctuations there’s plenty going on there and some amazing architecture in granite, that greyest of stone. The memory of seeing Marischol College will stay with me for a long time.
From there we drove to Inverness via the Cairngorms (yes it might have been ten minutes quicker along the coast but that’s not really the point is it?). Without wanting to sound like a reality TV show it certainly felt like a roller coaster of a journey. Photos or words don’t do justice to the views on offer it’s just one of those trips you have to do yourself. Ditto from Elgin to Edinburgh which included half an hour of one of the most desolated roads I can remember. I can’t mention Elgin without highlighting the wonderful tea and teacakes we were given on arrival; Scottish hospitality at its finest.
Edinburgh was beautiful, if full of tourists and Glasgow was impressive but I think it’s the ever present hills and mountains on the horizon that define Scotland. And the weather, of course. We certainly witnessed three seasons pretty much every day; just a shame that summer wasn’t one of them.
Finally I have to talk about the food. Apart from the obligatory haggis and fish supper I managed to sample Stornaway black pudding. A subtly different taste to that on offer near our office in Lancashire but definitely a good one. I was familiar with the deep fried Mars Bar, the deep fried pizza was a new one on me and although I couldn’t find many people who admitted to eating one it seemed to be a good seller at the local take away. Apparently with batter on it’s called pizza crunch…that definitely comes with a health warning!
A great trip and one to be repeated in November when we have our first Scottish User group. A time to renew acquaintances and hopefully make new ones.
If you want to see some of the photographs I took on my travels please visit the Public-i Facebook page. If you like them please like the page and feel free to comment – that’s what engagement is about.