The manager of Bute’s community-owned forest will leave her post at the end of the year to take up a new job as co-ordinator of the Scottish Rural Parliament.
Emma Cooper’s new role, which begins in January, will see her take forward plans announced earlier this year by Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Richard Lochhead.
Ms Cooper, who was appointed to the Bute Forest post in December 2011, will not be leaving the project behind entirely: she is expected to be co-opted as a director of the Bute Community Land Company, which owns the forest at the north end of the island, while her new role will be based on Bute.
“I have greatly enjoyed my time with Bute Forest and leave with some wonderful memories and friendships,” she said.
“It’s very sad to be saying good-bye, especially to the volunteers and directors who not only work really hard to make the project a success but make it so much fun too.
“I hope to remain involved with the project on a voluntary basis and in particular overseeing the stage 2 bid for the forest centre and accommodation. I am also greatly looking forward to the challenges which will be presented by my new role.”
The new Rural Parliament for Scotland is being modelled on similar initiatives set up across Europe over the last 20 years to improve policies and actions specifically addressing rural issues.
Ms Cooper was appointed by Scottish Rural Action, the management group for the project responsible for developing and organising the Scottish Rural Parliament. Scottish Rural Action’s management group comprises representatives from organisations working with rural communities across Scotland including Scottish Community Alliance, Development Trust Association Scotland, Community Woodlands Association, Community Land Scotland and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Ms Cooper was short-listed for the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Environment Award earlier this year for her work with Bute Forest.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the people of rural Scotland to have a real voice in policy development and to work with decision-makers in considering the challenges that face our rural communities,” she continued.
“The model has been successful elsewhere in Europe and we hope that the project will stimulate similar levels of community empowerment here in Scotland.”
John Hutchison, chair of Scottish Rural Action, said: “Creating Scotland’s Rural Parliament is a great privilege for those who have the responsibility to make it happen. We look forward to welcoming Emma to the team in January, with her enthusiasm, drive and track record.”
The Bute Community Land Company purchased 161 hectares of ancient woodland, commercial forest, moorland and coast at the north end of the island, and acquired rights over a further 535 hectares for footpaths, cycle paths and hydro schemes, in July 2010 after a community vote in favour ofa buy-out earlier that year.