SULCN Conference 2023

In May, twelve members of the Clinic travelled to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to attend the annual Scottish University Law Clinic Network (SULCN) conference. This year it was hosted by the recently founded Grampian Community Law Centre and revolved around the themes of the work of Clinics and the laws interaction with the current cost of living crisis.

The conference kicked off with a discussion led by Darren McGarvey, an Orwell Prize winner and a social commentator. This was followed by a discussion led by Dr Adrian Croft on the impact of legal issues on mental health. Following on from that, Grampian Law Clinic’s director and solicitor, Heather Moneagle, discussed community campaigning efforts recently made, and how the cost-of-living crisis affects the community as a whole. This was rounded off with a talk led by our very own Malcolm Combe, who discussed how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting housing laws today.

The day provided opportunities for reflection on the work we do in our own Clinic as well as fantastic networking opportunities.

Here is what Student Advisor, Katy Li, had to say about the day;

“It was lovely to meet the students and staff from the other clinics at the SULCN Conference. Great to hear that the University of Dundee are looking to re-start their own clinic as well.

My highlight of the day was hearing from Dr Adrian Crofton who shared his experience as a GP at the Torry Medical Practice. Dr Crofton spoke of how poverty affects health and addiction in a community, how substandard housing and related issues like noise pollution negatively impact child development. This reminded me of the work of Dr Gabor Maté, whose work explores the social and economic factors that underline health. I was quite surprised to see the UK’s high level of wealth inequality, and how it correlates to incarceration and drug use rates in a worrying direction. (Immediate reaction: move to Japan!) Looking at the big picture, it reminded me of the importance of community work and understanding issues that people deal with on a daily basis which they have little to no control over.

Following Dr Crofton, we watched a short film on the historic and recent developments of Torry. The many local campaigns to save communal areas from development highlight how important it is to take collective action backed by legal support. At the end of her session, Hannah Moneagle asked us to reflect on ways that clinics can contribute to local issues. Whilst the theme of the conference was the cost-of-living crisis, how it impacts each community will be slightly different. This is an angle that we could explore more of, and perhaps reach out to organisations local to us who serve underrepresented communities.

Thank you to all the speakers, and to Robert Gordon University for hosting us (and the lovely homemade cookies at the end!) The university building is very modern and impressive, particularly on a sunny day. Lastly, thanks to our clinic for sponsoring our transport to the conference. I look forward to the next one!”

It was a fantastic day, and we will be looking forward to the next. Thank you to the Grampian Community Law Centre for hosting the conference and we look forward to inviting you to our Clinic at some point in the future!