Back on the Road

Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust runs a unique social inclusion programme called Back on the Road (BotR). It was established in 1999 as the first of six Employment Projects of Scotland Against Drugs (SAD) which was a Scottish Government initiative to tackle drug misuse in Scotland. BotR was set up to provide opportunities for recovered drug addicts to prepare themselves for going back to work.  BotR was run from the Barclay Curle Complex in Whiteinch in the west end of Glasgow until 2001.

Angus McKay Deputy Justice Minister opening the project in 1999

 BotR moved to the garage in Fordneuk Street following its leasing to GVVT after having been ‘mothballed’ by Glasgow City Council from 1996.

Iain Gray Deputy Justice Minister welcoming BotR to Bridgeton in 2001

While restoring vintage and classic buses was the main work of the project, helping the participants to develop their social, financial and personal skills was every bit as important and became a fundamental part of the enterprise. 

Work underway on GCT Leyland Titan L446

When it was announced by the Scottish Government that the work of SAD was being integrated into other Government departments, the Trustees of GVVT decided that as part of its social responsibility undertaking, the GVVT would take over the running of BotR. This happened in 2004 with funding continuing initially from SAD, until its closure and then from the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives for two further years. The GVVT has funded BotR, fully, since 2008.

Over 80 recovered addicts passed through all of SAD’s Employment Projects around Scotland between 2000 and 2007, 30 of them participated in the Back on the Road project at Bridgeton Bus Garage.  Many of the clients displayed multiple problems in addition to their former drug use, with poor numeracy and literacy skills, housing and personal problems as well as drug-related medical complications featuring frequently.

Between 1999 and 2008, clients had the opportunity to develop skills related to bus restoration such as:- coachbuilding, painting, sheet metal working, mechanics and upholstering.  In addition, there were opportunities to develop associated skills of driving, fork lift driving and to sit certificates in Health and Safety and First Aid.  Personal development was high on the agenda for clients to develop self-confidence, motivation and money management skills through Partners Evaluation Care Plans.  Careful monitoring of progress included- timekeeping, use of tools, effort, attitude relationships and achievements.

Over 65% of the clients who completed the project found, or were found, full-time employment.  This was largely due to partnerships formed with commercial companies which were prepared to take on the graduates from BotR subject to a satisfactory reference.  Most of those who moved on to employment did not want their former history known to work colleagues making following up progress after leaving the project almost impossible.

From 2008 the direction of BotR changed.  There was a policy evolution in the partner referral agencies which gave higher priority to current, stable addicts whose problems ranged from addiction to court orders than to recovered drug addicts.  BotR had to evolve.

Back on the Road 2008 -2020

The Scottish Government published its drugs strategy “The Road to Recovery” in May 2008 and Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action in March 2009. Both signalled the need to ensure that local delivery of alcohol and drugs services was effective, efficient, accountable and able to contribute to national and local outcomes. Central to those strategies was the concept of recovery – a process through which individuals are enabled to move on from their problem substance use and becoming active and contributing members of society.

Between 2008 and 2009 BotR developed a business plan with partner agencies that built on these strategies and we developed a programme that was more integrated with local services and local community activities. Regular attendance at the East Addiction Rehabilitation Services (EARS) group meetings and East Community Addiction Forum (ECAF) meetings ensured that we could both provide addiction services with updates on BotR activities whilst getting up to date information from services working in the addictions field. Much of this networking continues today and as services have changed over the years BotR has continued to develop new partnerships that complement our service user programme, in order to continue the good work that has been fundamental to the aims and objectives of the GVVT.’

2 volunteers “sizing up the job” on L163 at the start of its restoration

Over the years participants have volunteered their time and energy to various vehicle restoration projects.  One such vehicle was the ex-Glasgow Corporation Transport Leyland Tiger, L163. The project started in April 2014 although referrals were taken 2-3 month prior to the start date in order to provide participants with a proper induction and some basic work-based training. There were 10 participating volunteers over an eight-month period contributing 642 volunteer hours with a 72% attendance rate. As well as gaining valuable work experience on our programme BotR partners provided on-going support and volunteers gained further qualifications in health and hygiene, first aid and completed forklift courses. During the restoration of L163 2 volunteers moved on to full-time employment and have subsequently kept in touch.

L163 framework being cleaned and prepared for painting before new panes are fitted

From 2014 – 2020 there have been over 60 referrals made from various social care and health care organisations. One of the referrals was “Wee James”. James was referred to BotR through Jobs and Business Glasgow Bridging Services. James could be seen at the Open weekends or at many of the transport events that were attended by members and their vehicles. The Trust and BotR provided James with on-going support and consequently he became a member of the GVVT. During this time this opportunity provided a safe structure for him to develop and enhance his skills both socially and practically resulting in the development of lasting friendships.

The recovery truck in undercoat being prepared for painting

Providing a programme which allows people to feel welcome and wanted is a key aspect of what BotR provides. “Listen to Bridgeton”, a short documentary directed and produced by Callum Rice was filmed in 2017. It gives an insight into what BotR, the Trust and the facility has meant to one of the BotR participants, seen through his eyes. He talks about how unique the facility is and the sanctuary it had given him which helped him come to terms and overcome previous traumas associated with his addiction behaviour. The participant also spoke about the characters and personalities he met during his time at Bridgeton and togetherness he felt which assisted him in his recovery. Over the last couple of years he has worked regularly with his father and has become a father himself. He also volunteers with a community rehabilitation service supporting people in their recovery. Again he continues to keep in touch.

The recovery truck after completion of restoration

The individual personal care provided on-site can differ from person to person. On one hand you could be referred a very capable person with good work history, able to commit to a structured work programme and needing very little support, while conversely, you might need to take on a more practical approach with someone with limited skills and abilities and work more on a one-to-one basis. One of the difficulties we had was a participant who was profoundly deaf and could only lip read. Although these difficulties provided additional challenges, we were able to put in place systems that included him in the work being undertaken, where he was able to contribute to the overall project without putting him at risk. Individual cases can be complex, and it is important to recognise personal issues and deal with them on an individual basis providing the appropriate support.

One of the Participants described above working
on the Trust’s Greater Glasgow Leyland National

Politics and addiction run pretty much hand in hand. BotR has recognised this and continues to develop its course material and systems of care to reflect the changing political arena and the needs of local services and service users. Covid 19 provides further challenges for BotR and the Trust. However the Trust board and BotR CIC board have been working hard to develop systems which will allow both members and BotR participants back on-site safely.

L163 looking resplendent after completion

Funding for Back on the Road has been provided by GVVT supported by grants from a variety of sources. However it has become progressively more difficult to find grant-giving bodies prepared to fund the programme. Although Back on the Road has been closely allied to the Trust in its Objectives, funders looked at the funds held by the Trust before making awards.  As a result of our efforts being focused on purchasing the garage, our reserves were inflated which often excluded us from getting grants as we needed to put down a significant deposit towards the purchase. This had to be declared when funding bids were made.

After considerable investigation, the Trustees were advised to set up Back on the Road as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in order to be eligible for a greater number of grants. A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders. It requires a community interest statement and a legal promise stating that the company’s assets will only be used for its social objectives.  Before the CIC can be set up, it has to be approved by the Community Interest Company Regulator. In order to bolster the community impact of Back on the Road (Glasgow) CIC, local Councillors have been invited to join the CIC. A formal agreement has been reached to associate Back on the Road with Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust which guarantees the association into the future. This has increased the number of funding bodies to which we can apply.

To find out more about the Back On The Road project visit

Back on the Road on screen

The project featured in a short documentary by Callum Rice in 2017 called Listen to Bridgeton. you can watch it here.