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October 22, 2008

Is Scottish Government committed to Community Empowerment?

On behalf of LPL, Angus Hardie told New Start magazine last week that “We need to get some indications, both from local and national Government that there is real enthusiasm for the community empowerment agenda. There is still a big question mark over how much genuine commitment there is.”

new start

Third sector leaders have accused the Scottish Government of being lethargic about community empowerment, claiming ministers would rather people were ‘passive and compliant’.

In April ministers and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities pledged to work together on a community empowerment action plan to provide capacity-building programmes and help residents acquire assets.

Although the plan is not expected until early next year, community leaders say progress has become ‘invisible’ and they fear it will be forgotten unless more pressure is put on ministers.

Local People Leading (LPL), a community sector coalition comprising the Development Trusts Association Scotland and social enterprise network Senscot, this week said the action plan’s announcement ‘was light on detail and didn’t commit any party to do anything they couldn’t reasonably argue they were doing already’.

‘It’s a starting point but there’s still a big question mark over just how much genuine commitment there is towards community empowerment.

We need to get some indication, both from local government and national government, that there is real enthusiasm and commitment for this agenda.’

LPL spokesperson, Angus Hardie, said the situation contrasted with England where there have been recent announcements, including details of a new asset transfer unit last month and July’s empowerment white paper.

LPL said Scotland’s action plan should include a new asset transfer fund for councils to help them refurbish properties for transfer to community ownership.

It also called for a national capacity-building programme, investment in community-led organisations in the poorest areas, and extra training for community development workers.

Laurence Demarco, founder director of Senscot, said the Scottish National Party (SNP) did not understand community empowerment.

‘The SNP is no less “municipalist” than the previous administration. They think the council should do everything and control everything and the community should be grateful recipients. They want a passive, compliant and grateful population,’ he said.

Details of the plan will be announced ‘in due course’, according to the Scottish Government.

A spokesperson said: ‘Scotland is in many respects ahead of England on this agenda, for example, in the fact that we have developed national minimum standards for community engagement, which have just been the subject of a very positive external evaluation.’