Our research explores the context of water management in Scotland as it existed in late 2003. We took as a key question: Is the Scottish policy context conducive to the emergence of “social learning” as a purposeful policy option in the future management of water, and in the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive in particular? Data generated by several means, including semistructured interviews with key stakeholders, tested the explanatory potential of a SLIM (Social Learning for the Integrated Management and sustainable use of water) heuristic concerned with how changes in understanding and practices can transform situations to produce social learning. Our research demonstrates how the historical context, including initial starting conditions; conducive institutions, especially political devolution, and policies; facilitation; building stakeholding; and the use of learning processes together can create the possibilities for social learning. The processes that went on through the development of the Scottish Water Bill exemplify how social learning as concerted action emerged, but it did not do so from any overall purposeful design. A major challenge is to create purposefully the conditions for social learning as a deliberate policy or governance mechanism
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