Highlands and Islands

Highlands and IslandsThe Highlands and Islands covers some 15,000 square miles, which is more than half of Scotland’s landmass. It includes more than 90 inhabited islands, but accounts for less than 10% of Scotland’s population.

In 2003, Scottish Union Learning established a dedicated Highlands and Islands team based in Inverness, in recognition of the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the predominantly rural, sparsely populated region of the Highlands and Islands in supporting union members in accessing learning.

A priority for the Highlands and Islands team is to encourage Union Learning Reps (ULRs) to work with union members and employers to deliver workplace learning and skills programmes specific to the region, for the benefit of individuals and the economy.

The ULR role is recognised as being the cornerstone of trade union learning. Typically, in the smaller workplaces of the Highlands and Islands, there may be only one ULR, or the ULR may cover several workplaces. Consequently, Scottish Union Learning prioritises support for this crucial role by developing and co-ordinating good practice models of cross-union working and by providing resources for unions, ULRS and learners. For example, Highlands and Islands ULRs have their own dedicated Facebook Group to stay in touch with each other.

Opportunities for support

We work with unions to increase the number of ULRs in the Highlands and Islands and to establish ULR Forums across the region, which provide opportunities for networking and support, and help sustain cross-union working.

In addition, the annual Scottish Union Learning Highlands and Islands ULR Conference brings together ULRs from across the north to share experiences of organising union learning and to learn new skills through themed workshops and discussion.

Scottish Union Learning in the Highlands and Islands works closely with local colleges, learning centres and key partners who understand the demographics of the region and share our aims to overcome the potential barriers to learning. We hold an annual Highlands and Islands Partners’ Meeting to engage with our partners and to provide an update on the work of Scottish Union Learning.

ULR Development Sessions

H&I’s network of dedicated Union Learning Reps are a foundation for our work. ULR Development Sessions are designed to support this valuable and important work. Taking take place on the last Friday of every month, ULRs themselves identify themes and invite guest speakers.

Please note that November's ULR Session has been postponed so that reps can attend the 13th Annual Scottish Union Learning Conference - Skills for Economic Recovery : The Role of Trade Unions.

Sessions in 2021 have focussed on climate change, neurodiversity, age inclusion, accessibility, menopause at work and deaf awareness.

If you would like to take part in future Development sessions or find out more about the network or the ULR role, please contact the SUL H&I Team (details below).

Upcoming Events in H&I

Pre Retirement Course Programme for 2022

Keeping your retirement plans on track can be a challenging task. These sessions encourage a positive and realistic approach to help participants make informed choices about their retirement plans. Our 2022 programme offers both remote and face-to-face sessions. Dates are :


October 2022 Remote 1:00pm - 3:30pm

22nd November 2022 Remote 9:30am - 12:00pm

If you would like to reserve a space email Fiona


Wellbeing Walk, Inverness : July 7th, 2022

It has been over two years now since Covid-19 came into our lives, and whilst the virus is still very much with us, it is clear that, as society, we can now try to get back to doing some of the things we did before. For SUL in H&I this means looking for appropriate opportunities for us to learn together in ways which are effective, safe and accord with current guidelines for public and personal health and wellbeing.


Our first face-to-face cross-union course since the outbreak of Covid took place in Inverness on Thursday, July 7th , in the form of a Wellbeing Walk. The learning group including members from GMB, RMT, UNITE and EIS were led by staff from Clarity Walk, an organisation based in H&I which specialises in physical activity for good mental health. Before the walk, as participants we were encouraged to complete a wellness survey which includes reflection on our own perceptions of our current health and wellbeing.


Our route began at Whin Park with a walk along the river. We then crossed at the Ness Bridge and headed for the islands which we then explored before being met by staff from Clarity Walk who had prepared an excellent lunch for us in a beautiful open-air spot. In all, we covered around 4k in distance at a good pace. We also had time to make both new acquaintances and reconnect with colleagues we hadn’t seen physically for a long time. Throughout the walk, facilitators Matt and Maggie, checked in to with us both individually and as a group, encouraging us to be mindful of our experience as it unfolded without distractions from work or personal life.

All in all, it was a highly productive way to spend two hours and our Wellbeing Walk taught us a number of things:

  1. It is important for us to take time out of our busy and challenging lives to focus on our own health and wellbeing.
  2. Good mental health and physical activity, are intrinsically linked (and walking as part of a group is actually fun!)
  3. Meeting up with colleagues from different trade unions and
  4. workplaces in a safe and supported space is a really productive way to make new connections, discuss ideas and plan future collaborations.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in July’s Wellbeing Walk and special thanks to everyone at Clarity Walk for al their work. If you are interested in taking part in future Wellbeing Walks with SUL H&I, contact Craig for Fiona.



Craig Finnie, Development Officer - email Craig

Fiona Cormack, Admin and Funding Assistant - email Fiona

Scottish Union Learning
UNISON Building
53 Shore Street

Tel: 01463 248905