Too often the aims and purposes of the Scottish Government have to be read twice because they are incomprehensible the first time. In the case of Sniffer, an officially designated charity/company funded almost entirely by the Scottish government, its purposes are obscure even on multiple reading.

The “charity” – being government funded it has no need to rattle collection boxes on street corners – surfaced last week with news that it had been awarded £100,000 of Scottish government support.

Quite how it has passed the definition of “charity” is a mystery. And its aims and purposes suggest it is little more than an extension of the Scottish government.

Taxpayers, however, may find its statement of activities baffling.

The money is to fund a new partnership called “Climate Ready Clyde” which “will bring together business and community organisations to study climate change risks and opportunities across the Glasgow and Clyde Valley region”.

“Climate change is happening now and extreme weather is having an impact in Scotland, and across Europe and the world,” declared climate change minister Aileen McLeod.

Now prepare to enter the labyrinth of liaising, networking and co-ordinating that so often passes for purposeful activity on taxpayers’ behalf.

The project was initiated by an outfit called Adaptation Scotland (funded by the Scottish government); the parent body delivering its programme is Sniffer.

Sniffer’s website has nothing to do with dogs. But it has meaty funding. In the five years 2011-2015 it has received government grants and support of £6.9 million. And it keeps itself busy – the accounts reveal seven officers and 15 resignations in recent years.

But what does it do? According to the charity’s accounts it was “established for the purpose of contributing to the protection, conservation and amelioration of the environment and the advancement of education in relation thereto, for public benefit, including well-being and quality of life.”

Clear? It aims to deliver “knowledge-based solutions to resilience and sustainability issues. We create and use breakthrough ideas and collaborative approaches across sectors, to make Scotland a more resilient place to live, work and play.

“Through innovative partnership approaches we share good practice, synthesise and translate evidence, commission new studies and target communications, guidance and training.”

Confused? The charity says its “vision” is “to be an innovative and intelligent company, that anticipates, responds to and shapes the collective needs of our partners across a number of sectors” and “deliver knowledge-based solutions that relate to resilience and sustainability issues.”


Still confused? “We define resilience as the ability to anticipate and understand changes to the environment in which we live and their implications for society, communities, businesses and infrastructure.”

Glazing over? “Resilience implies adapting and thriving in the face of change and uncertainty.  It involves assessing and managing risks, and taking advantage of opportunities. Social factors such as equity, governance, capacity, connectivity and networks support resilience.”

Slumped across the table with head-banging frustration? Ruth Wolstenholme, the managing director of Sniffer, says the supporters of Climate Ready Clyde, “are bringing a region together to prepare for the challenges and take the opportunities that come from a changing climate.

“Building the relationships and the mutual trust and support between the participating organisations takes time, but it is very encouraging that the project is now taking the step up to a formal partnership with a plan to make the ambitious vision a reality.”

Delivering. Synthesising. Resilience. Partnership. Connectivity. Vision. It’s all you need to do to qualify for £7 million of public funds.

What is it that Sniffer does exactly that all the various organisations and outcrops of government does not already undertake?

Would it be too much to ask that Glasgow City Council gets on with its job of clearing the gutters and handing out sandbags? That SEPA uses spades and lays pipes to improve drainage? That river banks are improved? How much delivering, liaising, connectivity and networking does it take?

Why hire Sniffer at all for £6.9 million when you can bark yourself

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