18 Mar: SACC AGM and Meeting

… Bunfight at Bridge of Allan … This is going to upset a few folk. So be it …

The Scottish Association of Car Clubs held their AGM and regular meeting last night in central Scotland. For the first two hours it was like watching the slow death of a kid’s favourite R/C car with a set of cheap rechargeables running on their last spark. No wonder that many of Scotland’s 50+ car clubs don’t bother to turn up to such meetings.

And given what is happening in the world of Scottish (and UK) rallying, it was notable that not even all of the rally oriented clubs were represented. And just in case the speed merchants and motor racers start feeling smug, remember one little thing, the name of the body that is forcing this change is the ‘Motor Sport Safety Review Group’ – note the words ‘Motor Sport’, your turn is coming.

There were no more than 50 folk round the square table last night and these stalwarts were supposedly representing over 2000 Scottish competition licence holders and possibly more than 3000 (nobody knows for sure!) car club members. How many of you knew anything about this meeting? Was there anything in your club Newsletter or on your club website?

Really it was turgid. But that is the way of meetings. All the necessary nominations and proposers and seconders had to be got through with the usual lack of volunteers willing to take on any task. Neither were any new nominees proposed which could have stirred up anything like a debate or a discussion. So the ‘new’ line-up of those in charge is identical to the old line-up. No change there then.

Then it was time for a cup of coffee and a parsimonious smidgeon of shortbread – somebody obviously had the welfare of the delegates at heart and knowing the dangers of the traditional artery clogging Scottish sugary diet, had taken the appropriate steps. Seriously, it wouldn’t have tempted a ‘wee sleekit, sweet toothed, cowerin’ timorous beastie’. And there was just one bit each!

Anyway, after a general discussion and ‘networking’ session over coffee, and a broken coffee urn, we all sat down – and somebody stuffed a set of fully charged, hi-power Duracells up their arses.

The new President was asked to say something, and the ‘Lanarkshire Lip’ came out of the trap like he was running on nitrous oxide. He was aggrieved that so little time had been spent on the subject of Marshaling which had been an item in the earlier Agenda. It was like Guy Fawkes had got away with it, lighting the blue touch paper and blowing up the debating chamber.

He forcefully and passionately reminded delegates of the emergency meeting held in this very venue just 3 weeks ago at which it was stressed quite forcibly by the Scottish Government, the MSA and the Forestry Commission that the future of rallying was in our hands – and we had less than 24 months to sort it.

If anyone out there still thinks this is too short a time scale, that it will never happen and it will just blow over, they are living in a snow globe – shake twice to see the flakes cover the wee tree.

For 60 years the sport of rallying in the forests has failed to move with the times. For sure there has been improvement, but there is still a great reliance on the common sense and sense of self preservation of rally spectators. Sadly, that’s not enough in these litigious times in which we now live.

The fact that the Scottish Government has ‘inserted’ a senior civil servant into the sport’s governing body should set off warning bells. They are serious about this. If rallying doesn’t get its house in order then the recommendation to her employers will be that the sport cannot be relied upon to manage itself. The plug will be pulled on forest rallying. No argument, and no more debate. It will even put the plans for Closed Road rallying in jeopardy.

Remember the Fuel Crisis? Remember Foot & Mouth disease? That brought a temporary halt to rallying, this latest threat could end it. Completely.

The President highlighted the need to attract new volunteers to bolster the ranks of existing Marshals, the requirement for an effective registration and training scheme, and the need to enthuse and incentivise them. He also stressed that Marshals must be made to feel welcome and wanted, not just manpower to look good in the forests.

It was a performance worthy of PM Question Time in the ‘Big Hoose’ down south, but it had the desired effect. There were raised voices and folk cutting over each other all round the room, like someone had electrified the seating. By goad it wis a grand shouting match. If you could have bottled the energy in that room in the last hour last night, it would have made Red Bull look like a sick and saggy auld coo.

Just about every single one of those who were there last night had their say, asked questions, voiced objections, vented opinions. It’s just a good job there wasn’t any cutlery on the tables.

The debate was brought to a halt as darkness descended and the eleventh hour approached, with the Vice Chair proposing a four point plan to take the new Marshaling initiative forward. The SACC has also appointed a new Communications manager and it will be his task to keep clubs up to date, so expect the details of this Proposal soon.

The President is also working on an epistle of his own to accompany this plan with the message that we all have to encourage folk to do a bit of marshalling and introduce new folk to this vital role.

Already I’m looking forward to the next meeting, and even if I’m not invited as a Guest (after they read this), I’ll be going as the representative of my club. I wouldn’t miss the next one for the world!

What’s the alternative? There isn’t one. In as little as three years time, we could all be sitting in the pub or in an armchair reminiscing about the good old days. Instead of waxing lyrical about the antics of a McRae scorching a red hot path through a cold and wintry Wales, or a Burns blasting down the sun dappled tracks of Dalby in Yorskhire, we’ll be sitting there saying: “I remember going to see the last ever forest rally in the UK – just last year it was, my them days were good.”

Don’t kid yourself. The bobble hat is about to get whipped off in the gale of sporting indifference as the winds of change sweep through the nation’s forests. Cos if they don’t, we’ll be left with single-venue rallying and Rally Time Trials. At best? We might get away with spectator-free rallies, i.e. No-one will be allowed into the woods to watch, and if they do, the stage will be stopped and perhaps the rally cancelled.

Now, where did I put that Scalextric set …. ?