An inclusive environmental hustings in Stirling Methodist Church

Stirling Methodist Church’s congregation and Friends of the Earth Scotland organised an Environmental Husting on Thursday 25 June. They aimed to focus on environmental issues and reach out to people unable to join traditional hustings.

10 July 2024

For those living in Stirling, in the Scottish Methodist District, attending hustling at the church is not unfamiliar. In conjunction with other groups, they have done it for the European Parliament, Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament elections.

The Stirling and Strathallan Constituency encompasses a vast rural area that has previously excluded many individuals from participating in election hustings, typically held in more populated areas.

“We were at a meeting of the Stirling Network of Eco-Congregations Scotland soon after the General Election was called, and an idea was floated: could the equipment, techniques and skills acquired during the Covid pandemic be used to enable people from rural areas to join election hustings?” explains Revd Walter Attwood, supernumerary minister.

Stirling Methodist Church and its congregation have been working hard to become more sustainable – they are the only Scottish Gold Award Church – and are active in secular environmental and biodiversity groups. Walter, a Friends of the Earth Scotland activist, was approached by them to see if the Church may be available for a hustings.

The Network and Friends of the Earth Scotland decided to organise the first inclusive environmental hustings in Stirling Methodist Church by hosting the hustings both in person and online.

Jon Cape, Convenor of the Stirlingshire Network of Eco-Congregations Scotland, says, "We have churches in the network across urban and rural parts of Stirlingshire and rural members have welcomed this inclusive approach."

Due to the short notice, widely advertising the event proved challenging. They mainly reached out to churches through the Eco-Congregations mailing list. Other contacts were made to individuals they knew in organisations, such as Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Transition Stirling, Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action.

Friends of the Earth Scotland promoted the event on Eventbrite, along with four other hustings they were hosting that week. The hustings in Stirling were unique as they were for a single constituency, whereas the other four hustings were for multiple constituencies in Aberdeen, Falkirk, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. It also received a publicity piece in the Stirling Observer.

“This was a great effort and a lot of hard work by all involved. My one regret is that because of the shortage of time to do all the preparation, we would have liked to reach out to the rural communities, especially in Strathallan. Next time I hope we will have sufficient time to carry out this important task and we will be even more inclusive.”

Revd Walter Attwood

Under the chair of Malachy Clarke, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, the five candidates answered a whole range of questions. They included questions on global warming and climate change, including trying to predict what the early 2100s would be like, the use of and divestment from fossil fuels, the circular economy, urban tree cover, policy on second-hand electric cars, insulation of homes, intellectual property rights to seeds, financing of met zero plans and the necessity of having stable environmental policies that give hope and confidence to the younger generations.

Whilst getting the information out to the contacts proved challenging, the event was a success number-wise. The 60 people in the church nearly double their usual numbers for in-person hustings plus the estimated 20 people online. During this week they were contacted by a couple of people who were unable to be present on the day asking whether it would be possible to film the hustings. A development they had not anticipated but were able to accommodate.

"This was an excellent event and well attended in person and online. We are grateful to all who the time to make this a reality. The variety of questions gave, not only the candidates something to think about, but many of us attending felt chalked to understand more and act."

Deacon Natalie Clark