Midlife career change and relocation for work

7th September 2023

Many people are choosing to make significant life changes whilst in pursuit of the next step in their career. For some that might mean reducing their hours or starting a new business, or even reskilling entirely. For others, a geographical move, coupled with being welcomed into an iconic industry, is the key driver.

For our next blog, we had the pleasure of speaking to Steven Morris, Health & Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) Manager for Gordon & MacPhail.  Steven is just one person who has recently made the decision to relocate to Elgin from Warwickshire to take up his new position in the iconic Scotch Whisky industry.

We asked Steven all about his move and he also gave us his tips for other professionals who may also be seeking a change in lifestyle and job.


  • You moved in to your current role as HSEQ Manager for Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin just recently. What were you doing before?

My previous role was as a Health & Safety Manager for a Birmingham-based SME in the telecommunications sector. Prior to that role, I had been working freelance on renewable energy and major civil engineering projects, being my own boss, for a decade, a lot of that overseas.  I have been fortunate to work on some notable projects for clients such as Crossrail, Amazon, and Google. During this time, I worked on wind-turbine projects near Campbeltown, one of the 5 Scotch Whisky regions,  and later at Hunterston. Prior to my health and safety career I was involved in a musical project based in Glasgow, which took me to places such as Dunoon, Fraserburgh, Stirling and more.


  • Moving job can be all consuming on its own and you chose to combine that with a move of nearly 500 miles north! What made you decide that this was the move for you?

There were many factors which played a part in my decision to relocate from Warwickshire to live and work in Speyside. At the forefront of my decision were the challenge that the new role provided;  and the opportunity to work in the Scotch Whisky industry for the renowned independent bottlers and distillers Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin. In addition, I was looking for the chance of a fresh start, a new culture to explore, its beautiful fauna and flora, countryside, and coastlines. I am a keen nature photographer, so the prospect of getting out into the beautiful forests and beaches in my downtime was extremely appealing. And, last but not least, to be at the source of the ‘Uisge Beatha’ (Gaelic for the water of life), the whisky itself!

Now, I don’t regard myself as a Scotch Whisky connoisseur, not in the slightest, however I have a healthy interest in the traditions, history, and science, and of course the taste, so when the role came up in discussion as a possibility, it was a ‘no-brainer’ to throw my hat in the ring. I have always had a connection to Scotland, and as I pondered my retirement options (although I am not there yet!), it became more and more appealing to explore purchasing a small home in a remote area of the Highlands to retire to and to indulge my desire to give a good home to rescue cats and grow old gracefully. Well, as gracefully as dozens of hungry cats will allow, so the decision to relocate has also brought my retirement plans out of pipe-dream territory and into firm reality.


  • What are the biggest challenges when deciding to say yes to an offer of a new role?

Well, for me, the idea of relocating had already taken seed even after the interview phase and before the job offer had officially come through from Gordon & MacPhail. I was already searching for accommodation in apprehension and getting to know the lie of the land. Once I had accepted the job, the challenges were in coordinating the relocation, packing, selling unrequired things and arranging storage. On the day of the move the greatest challenge was travelling 500 miles with the cat in a car!

My new employer was extremely generous with their time and assistance with the relocation, and it was quite a smooth and well-coordinated experience. I had been harbouring the desire to retire to the Highlands for several years since a previous Health and Safety contract role brought me north of the Border, first to Campbelltown, and then a short while after, a wee bit further north, to Largs. My previous experiences of working in and with the people of Scotland were always positive and memorable ones, and when the phone rang with the good news, I was already emotionally and metaphorically packed and ready for the challenges ahead.


  • Which of your skills are you finding most transferable into the Scotch Whisky industry?

The principles of health and safety are reasonably transferable from and into most workplace situations, it is about protecting the people and all who come into contact via our undertakings. The skill of occupational health and safety is to build trust and forge critical relationships at all levels of the business.  The goal is to gain support as a mediator between the moral, legal, and financial arguments which support proactive and cost-effective improvements to the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce, contractors and beyond.


  • What are your top tips for others who might have a desire to make a significant change during later-career?
  1. Research as much as you can, use sites like Wikipedia, trip advisor, local council websites etc. to obtain local knowledge. If you’re looking for rental accommodation look for smaller local groups closer to your new home, such as local buy/sell/let groups on Facebook or Gumtree. This can lead to direct contact with private landlords rather than having to deal with 3rd parties.
  2. The rental system in Scotland is different to than, for example, other parts of the UK. There are some subtle differences like length of contract and termination periods so it’s worth checking out the differences prior to taking the plunge.
  3. The NHS operates slightly differently in Scotland than it does in the rest of the UK. It’s worth noting that they use separate systems and this can cause delays in things like obtaining prescription medicines. To avoid any delay when switching GP surgeries/dentists, I would suggest you consider stocking up on a couple of months supply of any prescription medicines, from your current pharmacy, for you and your family before the date of your relocation.
  4. Midges and mosquitos! If you are planning on relocating to Scotland (especially the west coast) never be too far away from your bottle of “Smidge” (other insect repellents are available).
  5. If you don’t drive, or have access to a car, getting about can be a challenge. Bus routes and trains in the more remote locations may cause issues for your commute to work, study, or even local amenities.
  6. Immerse yourself in the culture, in the first couple of weeks is my best tip. I have been invited to go sea fishing, play cricket, and go mountain biking, amongst other things. Next up are archery, clay pigeon shooting, and of course, one or two invitations to a whisky festival!

Steven concluded by saying “relocation can seem daunting and there’s no way of knowing if it is the right thing for you and your family, unless you take the plunge.”

He goes on to say “I can give you the wealth of my experience and say that in my opinion (having lived and worked in other European countries and in other industries), Scotland has the most to offer in terms of exciting permanent employment opportunities, diversity of people, architecture, history, tradition and cultural identity, nature and the environment, and of course, the Scotch Whisky!”

Slainte Mhath!





The Scotch Whisky Association

Edinburgh HQ:
Quartermile Two, 2 Lister Square, Edinburgh EH3 9GL
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