Geography is a great way of bridging knowledge between disciplines and encouraging joined-up thinking to help achieve positive outcomes. We are heavily engaged in policy discussions with international bodies, national government departments, local authorities, community organisations, schools, universities, companies, NGOs and others. We promote geographical issues through public campaigns, policy coordination and high-level policy input.

Some of our policy work relates specifically to schools education. Other areas of our policy work - on climate change, land use, sustainable food and agriculture, transport, the circular economy, the Arctic, and health inequalities - are outlined here.

Climate Change

As one of the critical geographical issues we face today, climate change is a major area of work for us, and one that benefits significantly from cross-sectoral working and coordination. Both the RSGS as an academic body, and our Chief Executive as a Trustee and the founder Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, are very well placed to help influence effective climate change policy outcomes.

Climate Solutions

We are currently working on the development of a project to improve the 'climate literacy' of managers in the public, private, academic and voluntary sectorsClimate Solutions aims to tap into the huge potential for organisations and individuals in Scotland to support national and international efforts to combat climate change.

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Climate Emergency Summits

Our Climate Emergency Summits provide a space for motivated people from across the sectors to come together in a safe and open workshop environment to offer solutions to the climate emergency. Since late 2019, we have held six summits generating upwards of 1000 ideas and covering issues such as construction, financing the transition and a green recovery post coronavirus. A report is published after each event, and submitted to government to help inform policy. 

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Five for the Future

Developed through the Climate Emergency Summit programme, Five for the Future encourages all organisations to ask the same five questions at the end of each event they run ahead of COP26. Five for the Future will help generate a set of common answers, which in turn will help to shape an organisation- and society-wide set of key concerns. 

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In 2014-16 we developed a project to assess ways in which Scotland could make the biggest difference to reducing global climate emissions, through expertise, innovation or example. The project was called ‘Bitesize’, since an enormous task is easier when broken down into bitesize pieces! Several areas of our current policy work stem directly from this project.

Land Use

Nature Conservation

Particularly through the work of our Chief Executive (Honorary Fellow of Scottish Environment LINK), we are engaged in various groups and discussions about diverse aspects of nature conservation and broader land use. We have produced several editions of The Geographer on related issues: National Parks, Forestry, Rewilding, Hydro Nation, Green and Blue Infrastructure, and Countryside Management. In early 2016, we convened a 'land reform round table' with a variety of academic and representative bodies, working closely with the Scottish Consortium for Rural Research, University of Dundee and University of the Highlands & Islands.

Vacant and Derelict Land

We are part of an ambitious task force targeted with reimagining the use and improvement of the 12,000ha of vacant and derelict land that currently exists in Scotland.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Further to our food-themed summer 2018 edition of The Geographer, we are working with Nourish Scotland to encourage the adoption of a new Good Food Nation Bill for Scotland, looking at issues such as sustainable growing, genetic diversity, obesity, food poverty, and waste.

Our Chief Executive is Co-Chair of 'Farming for 1.5 Degrees', an independent inquiry exploring how a low carbon landscape can support a bright future for farming and food. The panel will bring together evidence and views from many different sources. Its final report will propose targets for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland’s agriculture and related land use, while continuing to produce high-quality food, and will identify the specific measures needed to achieve these targets.


Public and private transport is a critical geographical concern and one of the hardest areas of climate and behaviour change to address. The RSGS has a seat on the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Cycling, Walking and Buses. Our Chief Executive sits on the Scottish Government Air Departure Tax Stakeholder Forum, and the board of Sustrans Scotland; he is also a champion for active travel and cycling infrastructure in Perth & Kinross. We produced an edition of The Geographer on the topic of transport in spring 2010.

We have been campaigning for increased investment in rail infrastructure, particularly focusing on the opportunities for Perth to become a national rail hub, and the need to improve train journey times between Scotland’s cities, most notably between Edinburgh and Perth and Dundee, and on to Inverness and Aberdeen. We have convened meetings with interested people and bodies from north and east Scotland, along with business bodies such as SCDI and the Chambers of Commerce. We produced an edition of The Geographer on the topic in summer 2017.


The Scottish Geodiversity Forum was established in March 2011, after we organised a conference with other partner bodies in December 2010 to highlight the wider relevance of geodiversity in Scotland, and to consider how geodiversity might be better integrated within existing policy frameworks. The conference proceedings were published in the Scottish Geographical Journal, and led to the development of Scotland’s Geodiversity Charter. The Forum brings together geoconservation groups, geoparks and other related organisations, and interested individuals, to promote the role and value of geodiversity in education, community involvement and health, the development of tourism and the wider economy. Our Chief Executive sits on the Executive Committee.

Circular Economy

We have helped promote good examples of the circular economy in practice, including the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Our Chief Executive is an ambassador for the circular economy in Tayside.


We are working with the Scottish Government to inform and guide the development of a strategy to promote and expand Scotland’s economic, cultural and scientific contribution to the Arctic, and its connections with Arctic nations and communities. We produced an edition of The Geographer on Arctic issues in December 2018. We are currently working with a young editorial team to produce an Arctic-themed Young Geographer magazine, which will give a voice to young people from across the Arctic and relevant communities.

Health Inequalities

Further to the summer 2016 edition of The Geographer which focused on health inequalities, and led by RSGS’s Research & Knowledge Exchange Committee, we have been working with the Scottish Government and other agencies to reinforce the geographical aspects of health inequalities. Discussions have considered how we can better promote existing university research in this arena, and help to target future research to support the work of the NHS and Government health bodies.