Saturday, August 1

Scottish Ramblers - Death & Life

Earlier this month I commented on the likelihood of Ramblers north of the border going it alone following the way national cutbacks had split regional support.

Looking at Cameron McNeish's recent article I'd say that was now a certainty.

The RA may be a large organisation, faced with corporate business decisions to consider and action. Especially where financial matters are involved.

At times that means hard and unpopular decisions.

But unlike most typical businesses there is no tangible consumer product to create revenue. Even taken as a service supply venture there is no "product" involved. They are a registered charity who's existence is to represent tens of thousands of ordinary walkers. Some active, some interested, some reading in dentist's waiting rooms. Most willing to pay their annual subscription, but only where a (mostly selfish?) benefit is perceived.

People are buying into an Idea & Representation.

The main communication between the RA's Head Office and its customer base is via the WALK magazine - an infrequent publication; Rather too full of glossy adverts and middle of the road interest pieces IMHO.

Like Digital v Analogue TV, FM v DAB radio & Traditional Press v Internet Media, the market place for any target audience is now badly fractured. Run-of-the-mill audiences are now Run-away.

Nowadays if you don't feed my specific area of interest, there's always an alternative.

Putting my neck out I go as far as to say that very few RA members now join due to the RA's remit to support Rights of Way/represent 'ramblers' interests.

(Actually I'm not too sure why people join now I came to think about that last sentence)

All of which feels a sad reflection on today's society, but never the less is how it is.

As one of those organisations so media touted to reap the vogue for credit crunch (read cheap) & healthy lifestyle (read cheap) alternatives the RA had already taken an initiative to re badge its image back in March 2009.

A positive step towards turning around the slow trickle of departing members.

(Back in early 2008, based on membership figures assumed from WALK distribution, I commented on a 1% drop during 2007; The latest figures for 2008 show this has risen to 2.4% over the period 2006-2008. Not a huge dent in the present 103,322 total, but a continued movement in the wrong direction)

In June the RA's show piece "Walking 09 - Members Day" was cancelled.
"It is with regret that we have decided to cancel the event which was scheduled for September 5th, as the take-up has been much lower than anticipated".

Somewhat reflective of the composition of today's RA membership?

Meanwhile "Ramblers Scotland has also taken a leading role in the promotion of healthy walking - we're extending our work in this area throughout Scotland"

The sort of crusading initiative that draws in new members?

Well not for Ramblers UK in the future.

It seems to me that the RA has been losing its way for some time. And now, through a botched handling of its reorganisation, there will be a heavy price to pay.

The gradual break up of its national organisation during the next couple of years.

Sad. But also a pivotal moment for new vibrancy from far flung provinces?

McRamblers anyone?

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Comments:
Always thought they would jump, John. Times change. Perhaps before devolution, the confidenice wouldn't have been there to jump.
Interestingly, the CTC membership is at a record level now. People moving from walking to cycling?
Is the next big access issue going to be safer routes for cyclists?
 
It is sad and yet possibly some good may come of it if Scotland goes it alone. A fresh start, new ideas,maybe an example and leading light to England and Wales? Will Wales now follow Scotland? If so it will mean a major reshuffle. Certainly if Scotland does go it alone then I will support by means of membership
 
Ps, there is already a loch bearing my surname and I have my full length ladies dress kilt ready.
 
I must agree with your comments. I have been an RA member for years - I don't go on any of their events but feel they are a "good thing". Or at least were. I am now thinking about my membership and wonder if the BMC is a more representative outfit for my subs?
 
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