The history of SCRR

The Scottish Consortium for Rural Research (SCRR) is the new name given in June 2012 to the Edinburgh Consortium for Rural Research (ECRR), to reflect the fact that it has members from all across Scotland.

ECRR was instituted in 1989 as a facilitating organisation to assist the member organisations to work together for their mutual benefit, by sharing specialised facilities, promoting inter-disciplinary research and relating closely to the University of Edinburgh through its various Faculties, Divisions, Schools and Departments.

Prior to 1989 a more complex structure worked for a similar purpose. This was the Edinburgh Centre for Rural Economy (ECRE), instituted in October 1947 as a result of the vision of Sir Stephen Watson, then Professor of Agriculture and Rural Economy of the University of Edinburgh.

Bush House, at the heart of the Bush estate

Bush House, at the heart of the Bush estate

Sir Stephen conceived the idea of a large Rural Science Park on land acquired by the University for the purpose around the Bush Estate, near Penicuik. The two founder organisations were the East of Scotland College of Agriculture and the University Department of Agriculture, but prior to its formation Sir Stephen had exploratory discussions with the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS), both of which pledged their support.

Early members

Over the years some ten autonomous research organisations set up laboratories and field stations on the Bush Estate. Although some of these organisations have since changed their names, all those that still have a major presence in the Edinburgh area remain active members of the ECRR.

The former ECRE undertook factoring duties on behalf of the member Institutes, but in 1989 the decision was taken to restrict the work of the facilitating body to the development of scientific initiatives and to disband the role of factor and estate manager. The University, which still owns most of the original estate, acts as the legal landlord and the tenant organisations carry out their own managerial activities or contract with a neighbouring institute to undertake work on their behalf.

Associated status is given to comparable organisations who do not have a physical presence at Bush. However, all members, both Full and Associate, have a seat on the ECRR Board and enjoy equal voting rights.

Since 1989 many such Institutes have become Associated members, even though their main centre of operations is in Dundee or Stirling or in other parts of Edinburgh. The common theme is research closely connected to the use and ecology of the land, whether the land be farmed, under forest, under water, designated as an SSSI or in some other manner for the public good.

All the member organisations work very closely with the University of Edinburgh, many undertaking postgraduate supervision of Edinburgh students and some assisting with undergraduate teaching.