Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Case Study / Stealing our Cities

Since 2017/18 ECCI and SAGES – the network that gives organisations, businesses and policy-makers to access geosciences-related expertise from across Scotland – have been teaming up to offer a pioneering career enhancement opportunity for SAGES PhD students

The programme links students with relevant host organisations and is at the forefront of bringing academia and business together to tackle global environmental challenges. A range of business, third and public sector organisations working in priority areas of interest for SAGES were matched with PhD students to work together on meaningful consultancy projects.

Here we hear about PhD student Marli de Jongh’s impactful work with Scotland’s Futures Forum, matched together in 2019/20.

Scotland’s Futures Forum x Marli de Jongh

Working with Scotland’s Futures Forum – the Scottish Parliament’s think-tank – Marli de Jongh, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, looked into how much space is dedicated to different uses in parts of Glasgow and Dundee to explore how Scotland can reduce the carbon footprint of transport.

The internship allowed for examining innovative low carbon transport ideas or the opportunities to change people’s transport behaviours. Transport is a major contributor of greenhouse gases (GHG) (e.g. carbon dioxide) as well as impacting human health (e.g. nitrogen dioxide).

The resulting study, Stealing Our Cities, published in July 2020, shows how city space is being overwhelmingly used for private cars. With a particular focus on transport, the research casts a light on how we currently use – and could use – the finite space we have in our cities to support a more sustainable approach to life.

Land-use analysis
Using three case studies in Glasgow and Dundee, the study shows that space is overwhelmingly dedicated to the car: roads, car parks and on-street parking cumulatively account for the highest proportion of space at each site. Across each case study, space dedicated to cars ranged between 34.5% and 41% .

Furthermore, green spaces, public transport and cycling infrastructure are extremely lacking and appear to be of relatively low priority. This is particularly apparent at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), Glasgow – host venue to COP21 – where more space is dedicated to outdoor smoking than bike parking.

Career prospects
Marli de Jongh said: “I really enjoyed the experience, and it was a great opportunity to work in a different (policy based) environment. I enjoyed meeting people who were interested in the same problem as me, but perhaps had a different perspective, priority and/or background.

“I definitely think internships are useful for future career prospects. The internship really highlighted the number of transferable skills I had from my time studying Geology at University.
Marli de Jongh
“This can really appeal to employers as it shows your skills are applicable to different fields and that you are capable of adapting them when needed. It’s also just great to explore different career options to that you have more experience moving forward and a better understanding of what you would like to do in the future.”

Policy impact
Futures Forum director Claudia Beamish MSP said: “Stealing Our Cities really gets us thinking about what sort of spaces and places we want to live in and welcome visitors to.

“The research shows a depressing dependency on the private car at the sites analysed. The recommendations, if acted on widely, would make for a much more pleasant city experience with more green space, easier and safer walking and cycling opportunities.”

The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP, chairman of the Futures Forum’s board of directors, added: “The Future Forum seeks to bring fresh perspectives to our political thinking and how we prepare for the future.

“This analysis, which encourages us to look afresh at how our cities are designed, is a great example of that work

“All parties in the Scottish Parliament are committed to tackling climate change. With transport accounting for over a third of emissions in Scotland, this analysis encourages us all to consider how the status quo can be changed to do that.”

Read the full report and research summary.

RESEARCH REPORT: “Stealing Our Cities” – City space being overwhelmingly used for private cars

Supported by ECCI, the SAGES network gives organisations, businesses and policy-makers to access geosciences-related expertise from across Scotland.

ECCI helps SAGES engage end users (industry, policy-makers, third sector organisations) with research projects and supports internships like Marli’s through the SAGES Innovation Programme, a pioneering career enhancement opportunity for SAGES PhD students.

© 2023 | Proudly crafted by Academic Digital