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March 16, 2021

Disadvantaged left behind

The 2015 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act has reached the age and stage when the Scottish Parliament starts to look for evidence of its impact and whether the Act has done anything to strengthen the hand of communities. The committee in charge looked at two parts of this multi-part Act – participation requests and asset transfer. If it was issuing a progress report it would probably read – ‘tries hard but could do better’. The main conclusion the Committee drew was that the most disadvantaged communities are benefiting the least from the provisions of the Act. Well, well, what a surprise.

Jamie Hailestone, New Start Magazine

Not enough has been done to empower Scottish people from deprived backgrounds to take action in their communities, according to MSPs.

A new report by the Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee has criticised the implementation of the 2015 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act and said more must be done to help deprived communities in this regard.

The committee said a lack of resources and support at grassroots level is hindering progress in empowering communities, with the Scottish Household Survey revealing only 18% of Scots feel they can influence decisions affecting their local area.

They said more must be done to identify how to overcome barriers to engagement and have called on the Scottish Government to work with public bodies and COSLA to help communities use their rights to challenge and influence decisions and services.

‘Our extensive engagement work has made it clear to us that community wellbeing is synonymous with community empowerment,’ said committee convener, James Dornan.

‘Engaged and empowered communities are essential if people are to feel they have a real say in how their community operates.

‘We’ve heard a number of really inspiring stories showing community empowerment driving positive change but it’s clear more must be done to ensure communities across Scotland, and particularly those from disadvantaged areas, can be a part of this.

‘The committee is concerned by evidence we have received of bodies coming across as indifferent or even hostile to the rights communities have to influence decisions,’ he added.

‘Knowledge is power and there is no doubt more must be done to raise awareness of participation requests and asset transfer requests which can give communities the tools to feel empowered.