World-renowned speakers will be keynoting at an international, online conference in Perth on Friday 6th November, showcasing amazing examples of sustainable city design and reinvention from across Europe, including Copenhagen, Malmo, Ghent, and Ii in Finland.

These experts will explore how they developed traffic-free city centers, carbon neutral living, and energy security from city waste, alongside concepts such as the “15 Minute City” that argues that everything a person should need in an urban area is within a 15-minute walk or cycle.

Organized by the Perth City Leadership Forum – in conjunction with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) – the event is set to inspire a new vision for Perth, encouraging city leaders to develop a roadmap to become the most sustainable small city in Europe.

Perth has a quality of environment and landscape that few cities can match, making it one of the healthiest places in the country to live, work and grow up. And, being one of the smallest of the seven cities in Scotland, the organisers believe this event is a real opportunity to lead and showcase sustainable, scalable solutions, and become the envy of Europe.

Attending this online conference will be some of Perth’s biggest employers, local companies, local organisations and the Local Authority, together with international guests and national partners to advance this inspiring vision, and to help deliver the Perth City Plan.

Amongst the speakers signed up for the event are Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, former mayor of Copenhagen responsible for the green transformation of the city; Professor Carlos Moreno of Sorbonne University Paris, who will introduce his pioneering concept of the 15-minute city; and Leena Vuotovesi and Sanna Toumela from Ii in Finland, who will tell the remarkable story of Europe’s greenest town, which is completely fossil fuel free.

Commenting on the conference, Mike Robinson, Chair of the Perth City Leadership Forum and Chief Executive of RSGS said:

“Perth is a beautiful place. It has a quality of environment and landscape that few cities in Europe can match: Kinnoull Hill, the River Tay, the two inches, it’s position at the heart of ‘Big Tree Country’, I could go on.

“But whilst this beautiful environment is evident, it is often, in my experience, taken for granted, and Perth itself is more widely misconstrued. People outside the city regularly refer to it as a quiet place; or have simply driven round it, only familiar with the Broxden Roundabout from their journeys along the A9.

“Perth is a wonderful city, but if we want it to remain a great place to live, work, and learn, we need to believe in it more and value what we have. And, we need to build on its abundant natural strengths, writ so deeply in Perth’s DNA, to create a city in the future we can all be proud of.

“If Scotland aspires to lead the world in its concern for the environment” he added, “then why can’t Perth lead Scotland in this endeavor?”

The conference will be hosted on Hopin, and Chaired by Mike Robinson. This platform offers all the elements of a face-to-face conference including keynote addresses from the main stage, panel discussions, workshops, networking sessions and digital expo booths.

The conference will be held in two parts, a month apart. The first part will be on Friday 6th November and the follow up on Friday 4th December 2020. The main activity on each day will run from 09.00 to 12.30 although the online event will remain live for two days to give delegates the opportunity to network.

To register, please visit the Perth City Leadership Forum’s new website:

“What makes Perth special should also be what guides us going forwards.”

Perth is a beautiful place. It has a quality of environment and landscape that few cities in Europe can match: Kinnoull Hill, the River Tay, two Inches, and its place at the centre of Big Tree Country. Although this beautiful environment is evident, it is often (in my experience) taken for granted, and Perth itself is more widely misconstrued. People outside Perth regularly refer to it as a place they’ve ‘driven round’, or as ‘a bit quiet’ or ‘well-to-do’, and in one of the more ridiculous statements I’ve heard, ‘not really part of Scotland’. Even some of our Inspiring People speakers have mistaken it for Perth, Australia. Perth is, ironically, one of the only parts of Scotland that has always been in what people would commonly historically refer to as Scotland. But all of this suggests a place that is not well understood.

Perth is fairly self-contained and perhaps doesn’t sense a need to shout about itself, which is certainly typical of the local character. This market town, which has grown out of a crossing point and trade centre, and has acted as the seat of royals in Scotland and a coronation point for Pictish and Scottish monarchs, dating back at least as far as the 8th century, has lost sight of its own history and could certainly do more to tell its own story and develop its sense of place. However, what is perhaps more pertinent, as a newly (re)crowned city, is its sense of itself now and what it wishes to become, and here, I believe, it is missing a trick.

Perth is surely one of the greenest and healthiest cities in the UK, but it needs to do more to build on this if it wishes to capitalise on this natural strength. It has a wide array of high quality cafés and independent retailers, but with the very nature of retail changing, these can only ever be one part of the future of the city centre. Like many towns and cities, it is over-reliant on the car. (It is disappointing how many Scottish towns think the solution to all their woes is a bigger car park!) Connectivity has always been a crucial part of Perth’s national position, but this needs to extend beyond road traffic. Yet it has let its rail link to Edinburgh dwindle. There is a strong sense that it doesn’t do enough to keep and attract younger people. And Perth has plenty of green space, but could do more to celebrate its environment – its trees, parks, river, even its high recycling rates. How can it incorporate this more into its thinking?

The biggest current local priority project is the building of 7,000 new homes, and the roads to go with it, but it is not exactly clear for whom, and why? Is it to raise more money in council tax? Is it to accommodate projected growth from migration from the west coast and elsewhere? Or is there a perceived need for a larger population to increase the critical mass of people to support the local economy? And where will they work, if they are not retired? Will they commute to work and to play, or will Perth provide enough to keep them more locally? And as with so many beautiful spaces, will this undermine the quality which makes Perth so special in the first place?

There is much to be resolved. For me, though, what makes Perth special should also be what guides us going forwards.

Being one of the smallest of the seven cities, there is a real opportunity for Perth to lead and showcase sustainable solutions, in part because of its scale. Could Perth build a more robust transport infrastructure which retains and future-proofs its place at the heart of Scotland’s communications networks? Can it ensure it is the best place to grow up and make a start in life, not through foam parties, but through offering the best education and apprenticeships, leisure facilities and sustainable, affordable housing? Can it reduce its car dependency and create more safe places to cycle, walk and play, and in the process improve its air quality and further enhance its environment?

Perth could do much more to build on its vibrant, healthy, active side, which already exists, though more at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning than at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night. This would help create an identity that everyone could rally behind, including its various employers – renewable energy companies, public transport providers, government environmental organisations, waste and land managers, and NGOs.

All of these aspirations play to Perth’s natural strength – its quality of life, driven by the quality of its environment, making it one of the healthiest places in Scotland to work, live and grow up. It is in Perth’s DNA, and as urbanisation and global environmental pressures grow, this will only become increasingly more unique. Scotland aspires to lead the world in its concern for the environment, and Perth could aspire to lead in Scotland. That is where I believe Perth’s future lies: the most sustainable small city in Europe, naturally.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS