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February 9, 2011

Community Planning Partnerships off the pace

With the passing of the Scottish Climate Change Act, the Scottish Parliament was widely praised for the strongest climate change legislation of any industrialised nation.  This national commitment to tackle climate change is being mirrored at the grassroots where hundreds of communities are becoming involved in a wide range of local actions. But a worrying report published last week suggests that the bit in the middle – Community Planning Partnerships – still haven’t grasped the key issues

An audit of Single Outcome Agreements, carried out for LINK by CAG Consultants, is released today and can be accessed at

Over the last two years LINK has assessed how national environment and sustainable development commitments are faring under the Concordat between Government and Community Planning Partnerships.  Today’s report finds that though environmental issues feature in all SOAs, many of those covered are quite narrow, statutory necessities such as waste and street cleanliness, and that local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships generally do not see sustainable development as a priority.  We believe there is a danger that environmental priorities may be increasingly overshadowed by economic ones, particularly in the current financial crisis. 

The CPPs have much to offer in terms of innovation and distinct local approaches and this audit identifies several good practice examples – in Fife, Inverclyde, Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Lothian – where the local authorities recognise the benefits of strong environmental policies in terms of health, jobs, pride and enjoyment in the community.   At present, though, the report indicates that the process generally fails to capitalise on joining up health, environment, and the economy for the benefit of local areas, missing opportunities to address climate change mitigation, adaptation, landscape, the historic environment and the sustainable management of water resources.
Local authorities and their partners have a key role in improving Scotland’s environment –  in reducing emissions, adapting to climate change, protecting our beautiful natural and historic landscapes, providing access, education and healthy leisure opportunities, and more. If the intention of the Concordat is to be achieved, more local authorities need to take on this challenge. In doing so they will need clear support and backing from Scottish Government which has a stronger role to play in direction, oversight and evaluation to ensure national targets can in fact be met.

Key findings

• The Local Government in Scotland Act (2003) established sustainable development as a statutory duty as part of the Best Value regime. However, the findings of this audit suggest that sustainable development is not widely seen as a strategic priority for Community Planning Partnerships in Scotland .
• Neither does sustainable development appear to be widely understood, either in SOAs or in the guidance for SOAs, as an over-arching framework for policy development which it is intended to be in the UK’s shared framework for sustainable development ( One Future – Different Paths , 2005).
• Perhaps as result of the absence of sustainable development as an overarching framework, the interconnectedness between outcomes is not fully capitalised upon and few SOA’s explicitly recognise and address the ‘crunch issues’ which it would be necessary to address in a truly sustainable approach. Allowing such conflicts to remain wastes resources and will undermine the achievement of the intended outcomes .
• Many SOAs do recognise the interconnectedness of environment, health and transport outcomes and this provides a useful model for integrated thinking in other areas, demonstrating the multiple benefits and efficiencies which can be achieved by adopting such an approach . 
• At a general level, the environment receives considerable attention within SOAs and most in some way recognise the environment as a priority. However, in some cases, the  coverage of environmental issues is quite narrow in its focus (e.g. on waste, recycling and street cleanliness) and some significant gaps in coverage have been identified including :
•  Climate change mitigation – only two SOAs include indicators for per capita production-based emissions across the local authority area, although 10 include
a carbon footprint indicator (for consumption-based emissions).
•  Climate change adaptation .
•  Historic environment .
•  Landscape – no SOAs include outcomes or indicators for landscape.
•  Sustainable management of water resources , including links to climate change mitigation.
• Because of the patchy coverage and inconsistent treatment of environmental issues in SOAs, it is unclear how activity at the local level in Scotland will contribute to the meeting of key national outcomes and targets , such as the demanding national target for reducing CO 2 emissions.
• The scale and urgency of the environmental challenges we face is not well reflected in SOAs and there is a danger that environmental priorities may be increasingly overshadowed by economic ones in the current economic climate. The interconnectedness between the two is not well recognised, which could have serious adverse impacts on Scotland’s economic prosperity in the long term.