THERE are six spectacular women in the running for the Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year 2021 award.

Every day this week, we are sharing their stories. The winner will be announced on March 31.

First up is environmental activist and community hero Maureen Potter. ANN FOTHERINGHAM reports.

Glasgow Times: SWOTY 2021 finalist Maureen Potter at Langlands Moss peat bog in East Kilbride. STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..16/3/22.

HAD it not been for Maureen Potter’s drive and determination, an important nature reserve and globally significant ‘carbon sink’ would have been lost forever.

“I know this place would be covered by houses by now, or more factories,” says Maureen, who is retiring as chairperson of the community group she helped set up to fight plans to build on peatland in East Kilbride.

Glasgow Times: Maureen at work with one of the local schools who regularly use the Moss.

“It wasn’t easy – we faced a lot of opposition. Climate change wasn’t talked about that much 16 years ago, and it’s only in recent years there has been a big push to protect peatland, so we were battling really hard back then to get anyone to listen to us. It took a lot of nagging.”

She adds, with a smile: “But I’m a very good nag.”

Glasgow Times: SWOTY 2021 finalist Maureen Potter at Langlands Moss peat bog in East Kilbride. STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..16/3/22.

Maureen, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, set up Friends of Langlands Moss (FoLM) in 2006 with a handful of fellow residents concerned about plans to build on an 8000-year-old raised peatbog called Langlands Moss.

Glasgow Times:

With Maureen at the helm, the group drew attention to the area’s protected status as a Local Nature Reserve, and campaigned vigorously against the proposals. They were successful, and FoLM is now taken seriously by everyone from the Scottish Government to the British Ecological Society. Its patron is eminent geology professor and TV presenter Professor Iain Stewart, and the group’s work has inspired others across Scotland.

Glasgow Times: Maureen Potter

Peat bogs act as sinks for natural carbon, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and the climate emergency. There are around 130,000 tonnes of carbon stored at Langlands – equivalent to the entire annual carbon output of South Lanarkshire.

Thanks to the Friends, the boundary of the Local Nature Reserve is now being extended from the original 20 hectares to around 47, with plans for wetland areas, seating and more on the cards.

The group, with the help of funding from sources including the Big Lottery Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage, has raised tens of thousands of pounds to repair paths, create a wildflower meadow, install signage and build dams to keep the peat wet.


There have been huge challenges for Maureen and the group along the way. Two devastating fires in the space of two years destroyed significant parts of the boardwalk, a pathway which allows people to walk across the bog safely, and large parts of the Moss, which is home to many species of birds, insects and animals, from rare plants like crowberry and cloudberry to butterflies, buzzards, deer and otters.

It takes a lot to shake Maureen’s faith in people, but to this day she is still appalled by this breathtaking act of vandalism.

“The morning after that second fire, I was up here on my own, and the devastation was awful,” Maureen says, still visibly upset by the memory. “A wee meadow pipit was flying around, crying, looking for its nest. And I just cried too, I couldn’t help it.”

In addition to its increasingly vital role as a carbon store, Langlands Moss is a much-loved community resource and a flagship conservation project in South Lanarkshire. It was one of the first community conservation groups in the region, and there are now more than 30.

READ MORE: Young SWOTY 2021 - here's how to vote for your favourite

Maureen is also proud of the number of young volunteers, often children from local schools or members of the town’s Boys Brigade and Scouts companies, who have been inspired by working at the Moss to go into environmental careers.

“One has his own ecology business, another is the bat conservation officer for the whole of Scotland and others work as countryside rangers – that’s really fantastic, to think we have encouraged them in some way,” she smiles.

Maureen, who has two grown-up daughters, also works tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and conservation – she is in great demand as a speaker at everything from local school events to national and international conferences. She has worked with rural colleges looking into habitat training, natural history societies and local health groups. Once a week, she ‘pops up’ to go litter-picking around the Moss.

Maureen and her husband Ian loved walking at Langlands Moss. He was a driving force in the early days of the campaign and when he sadly died, aged just 68, in 2008, Maureen found solace in the place they had enjoyed together for so many years.

Despite the hard work of the last 16 years, the endless fundraising - “this turned out to be a second career for me,” she laughs - and the ongoing battles with bureaucracy, Maureen still finds that solace at the Moss.

“Oh yes, that is still the case,” she says. “I’m always talking to people about the benefits of fresh air and a good walk - these are all so important for mental health. Coming here helps people, just as it has helped me.

“This is where I find peace.”