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May 11, 2010

Lose the Common Good and we lose our history

Public parks, civic buildings, works of art – many aspects a community’s cultural heritage –can sit within the Common Good.  Gifted to the people at some point in the dim and distant past, the stewardship of these public assets has often been less than satisfactory.  Now the responsibility of local authorities, these assets nonetheless remain the property of the people – not the council.  To promote a much wider awareness and interest in the Common Good, a dedicated group have launched an excellent new website

What is the Common Good?
The Common Good is over 500 years old – is rooted in our community – and permeates through our daily lives. It is a hedge against short term solutions and political expediency. The common Good is a long term investment. Most Glaswegians know we own the parks – even young people.

There are still strong remnants of ideas that things should be shared and include everybody – all over Scotland.

The Common Good contains a substantial range of public assets of land, property, such as schools, public buildings, parks, art work and much more.

There are laws that should protect these assets, a historical and cultural context, and the Common Good is based on democratic principals.

Our Common Good is part of who we are as a nation. Not in the flag waving sense, but what we share as people of the world – from the Enlightenment and our history of struggle for the underdog. Why are we not proud of these achievements? Why do we not drape our city squares, cover the side of buses telling the world – and creating festivals of these things?

If we lose the Common Good we lose a uniqueness that can’t be replaced.

Our Common Good is under threat all over Scotland – as administrators of our assets look to solve their short term problems by using our long term wealth. If our Common Good disappears, it can’t ever be replaced by using money. We lose the Common Good and we also lose the story, the history, the institutions and the idea of the civil society that created it.

There are many examples where the Common Good is being used to benefit local communities (and many more examples where it is not.) There are places where Common Good assets have been re established, taken back from the developers and the mismanagement by those we employ to look after them – and all carried out by people who had never heard of the Common Good before realising their institutions (town halls schools etc) could be protected using Common Good law.

The “Common Good Awareness Project” is not here to tell you what to do. It is here to highlight some – not alternatives, but well established laws, democratic structures and principals that could help “ordinary people” become part of the decision making process in their communities.

What the CGAP website is set out to do is:

*Present some ideas of how folk can get involved through their own time scales and experiences – using all the tools at our disposal

*To point to the rich wealth of research and work in Common Good, that has already been carried out and to encourage more.

*To highlight the campaigns, the groups and the people who have been working hard to protect the Common Good in our name.

*And to create a Common Good map of Scotland.

(The website is in no way finished it will be shaped, developed and altered to accommodate needs. We need feedback and your ideas for improvements.
NOTE: This is not all going to happen tomorrow – it is going to take some time, commitment and dedicated work – there is lots to do, but that’s always the case with things that are worth while)

In the Common Good. Bob Hamilton.

Site development: Magnus Lawrie, Simon Yuill, Bob Hamilton. You can join the team at the Electron Club. Workshops will be announced soon.

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