Hopes of converting one of Glasgow’s golf courses into the city’s first urban farm ahead of COP26 have taken a step closer to becoming reality following a major award from the National Lottery to be announced today.

An unprecedented £629,582 from the National Lottery Community Fund to the Glasgow Community Food Network (GCFN) means work can begin tomorrow [Friday] on transforming Glasgow’s food system and reducing its impact on the climate crisis. It is the Lottery’s largest award given to one project specifically tackling climate change in Scotland.

A project called ‘Low Carbon Sustainable Food City For All’ will be led by GCFN in partnership with Urban Roots, Glasgow Eco Trust, The Space, St Paul’s Youth Forum and Central and West Integration Network.

Nine new jobs will be advertised from tomorrow, with appointments expected to be made before the end of the year for work to begin in January.

Five of these are for full-time Community Activators to establish Green Assemblies across the city, where local people are invited to discuss issues around food that affect them in their area. Small grants of £1000 will be awarded to community groups to develop the best food projects.

“Green Assemblies are aimed at empowering people to take action themselves,” Abi Mordin, Chair of GCFN and lead architect of the National Lottery bid, told The Herald. “A Community Activator’s job will be to inspire change in their community. Hyper-local food production and delivery systems, short supply chains - the more that can happen close to communities the better.”

A big push on food education aimed at energising young people in the climate movement, and teaching them how food makes an impact on climate change, is another priority.

But perhaps the most visible sign of the re-greening of Glasgow could be the city’s first urban farm. GCFN and its partner organisations want to use some of the National Lottery money to convert one of the five municipal golf courses currently under threat of closure to realise this. They are Linn Park, Lethamhill, Littlehill, Alexandra Park and Ruchill.

“We urgently need to upscale urban food production in the city and localise our food systems,” said Mordin. “If we can persuade Glasgow City Council to release one of the surplus golf courses it would be just amazing because it would enable large-scale urban agriculture and vegetable growing, facilitate training and apprenticeships in animal husbandry, beekeeping, vegetable growing and so forth. How exciting if – ahead of COP26 – the city can boast that it has its first urban farm.”

The National Lottery Community Fund is part of the ten-year £100m National-Lottery-funded Climate Action Fund aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of communities. Some 300 organisations across the UK have applied and Glasgow’s bid is the only one to be awarded to Scotland this year, though Greener Kirkcaldy was awarded just under £200,000 for the Climate Action Fife project in the first round last August.

The focus on food was unique to GCFN’s successful application. “If you impact the food system you impact many other things like air quality, carbon emissions, the local economy,” said Mordin. “There has never been a time like this, nor such a need for such coordinated collective action. The challenges from Covid-19, Brexit and climate change require a food system that can respond and recover from shocks.

“I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the partner organisations for their time and of course to the National Lottery players for making the funding possible.

“I have no doubt that hosting COP26 tipped the balance in our favour,” she added. “The whole of next year will be geared towards this, and we hope President Biden will come to the city and see what we have achieved.”

Kate Still, the National Lottery Community Fund’s Scotland Chair, said: “This exciting partnership project will inspire a collective community action among the people of Glasgow. Over the next two years, it will raise awareness of the links between carbon emissions and food production whilst showing just what can be achieved when people take the lead and response to the climate emergency.”

Asked for a response to the golf course challenge, Cllr Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, told The Herald: “Glasgow City Council has been delighted to support the successful collaborative funding bid to the Climate Action Fund.

“The new Community Activator posts will embed climate action work at the heart of local communities, which perfectly aligns with the council’s approach as we count down to COP26.

“We are committed to supporting and expanding food growing opportunities for our citizens through our successful Food Growing Strategy, and this funding will also help unlock pieces of land, and bring them to life as a range of innovative growing spaces.”