The Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland

Convener’s message

6 August 2008


This has been a time of meeting new faces. In spite of occasional doubts and frustrations of our work as planners, there are rewards.  We’ve got to help everyone to see the value of what the art of planning can do.  It’s the link between a far-seeing inspiration and the careful footwork on the ground here and now.  There is no shortage of interest and enthusiasm about the places in Scotland around us, but people are puzzled about what their role might be and overawed, over-sensitized and exasperated by events.  One of the most important tasks is to start to inspire people to get involved. This may be part of the daily duties of our job, or it may be something that we do outside it, through Planning Aid, or pursued in other ways. “We are all citizens” was my theme at Tokyo a couple of years back and it was clear that while the sense of interdependency and community remains instinctive in many parts of the world, people don’t always see the point of taking a more purposeful part in what goes on around them.  So to inspire and explain we have to look at the detail of practical achievements of the past and explore practical possibilities for the future step by step.  The small drops make up the ocean, those individuals in action will move the great public and private bodies, the communities and the nations, just as they have always done. 


As well as helping people to help themselves with more buzz we need to encourage more of them to come into our profession. Barbara Illsley writes of the positive contribution planners around Scotland are making to planning courses, and more and more are getting involved in mentoring too.  The profession can draw more students in from related disciplines.. I spoke last month to a conference workshop of UK university teachers in the disciplines of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) who are keen to relate their world more closely to our professional world of planning practice.


And we can help to inspire the young, there’s certainly no shortage of interest and enthusiasm there.  I’m looking at what we might do to develop this with representatives of other disciplines and with the teaching profession at the moment.  In Iceland, councils pay young people to look after open spaces, can we learn something from this?   Each small part of Scotland has so many stories to tell, so many educational possibilities within it, and so many mirrored connections all over the world.  Wendy McArthur’s little book “What’s in a Name” about the origin of the New Zealand streets and suburbs of Invercargill, Bluff and Otara shows those fine-grained connections to Scots people and places very clearly.  Some training for planners in storytelling might come in handy.  Holidays over, back to school!


-Roger Kelly

PS I’m sorry I suggested reading Dr Burns Geddes Lecture in my last column, it can’t be done.  As I and many of you discovered, the text is not available, though something is now being put together for the record.  In his lecture Dr Burns drew largely from his most recent Annual Report to Scottish Ministers published last November: you can read this at


Roger Kelly’s planning website is at


Roger Kelly convened the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Scottish Executive throughout 2008.

This message appeared in the August edition of the Scottish Planner


later messages: October 2008   December 2008 

previous messages: June 2008  April 2008  January 2008

Review of the year 2008

Roger Kelly on the context of planning reform June 2009