September 10, 2014
Look at the evidence
When the SNP won their overall majority in 2011, their election manifesto suddenly took on new meaning – they now had an unexpected mandate to deliver on everything. Work started almost immediately on the early consultation for the Community Empowerment Bill. Three years on, no one can claim that this Bill has not had a thorough airing or that they haven’t had ample opportunity to comment and make views known. But the scope for shaping the Bill starts to reduce from here on in. This is the written evidence submitted by SCA.
Introduction to SCA’s written evidence in response to the call for evidence from Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill. Closing date – 5/9/14
Full submission can be read here
Scottish Community Alliance (SCA) is a coalition of national networks that provide specialist technical advice and opportunities for peer to peer support across a broad range of community based activity that takes place throughout Scotland. Many of these intermediary networks have developed a body of knowledge and expertise which relate to specific measures proposed in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill. For instance, Community Land Scotland, Community Woodlands Association and Development Trusts Association Scotland have significant expertise in relation to the provisions which seek to extend the Community Right to Buy and simplify and improve the provisions contained in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Some, like Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, Nourish and Federation of City farms and Community Gardens have a special interest in those proposals that relate to allotments and the expansion of community growing and will be providing expert evidence in that regard. Others have a more general interest in the broader principles of community empowerment and may offer some comment or detailed evidence on that basis. The evidence submitted here by SCA will not replicate the detailed evidence and analysis of its member networks. Instead SCA seeks to offer some general comments on the measures proposed by the Bill.
During the early consultations on the Bill, SCA took the view that legislation of this nature should be underpinned by some ‘first principles’ of community empowerment. These are:
• Subsidiarity is an organising principle that should inform all aspects public policy in Scotland and be at the heart of the new legislation on community empowerment. The principle of subsidiarity requires any matter to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralised authority capable of addressing that matter effectively.
• Self-determination. Local people should be allowed to determine for themselves how their community is defined and which local organisational structure is best suited to take forward their programme of local empowerment.
• Local people leading. Community empowerment only occurs when local people lead the process of taking power and resources to themselves. Communities empower themselves through bottom-up activity and the evidence points to the fact that better outcomes are invariably achieved when this occurs.
• Land and self-generated income. Ownership of land and control over land use, and the capacity to generate income streams which are independent of the state, are critical in determining the degree to which a community is able to empower itself.