February 7, 2023
Grasp the detail
Whenever a new initiative makes its entrance onto the policy landscape, it’s always worth observing how quickly it acquires the status of ‘assumed knowledge’ whereby casual references to the initiative imply a detailed grasp that is rarely if ever challenged. So it is with Community Wealth Building. Lately it has become commonplace to hear people refer to a ‘CWB approach or methodology’ as if we all have a shared understanding of what that might mean. Last week the Scottish Government launched its consultation in advance of proposals to legislate. Important then, that we begin to grasp the detail.
In the midst of tackling a Cost Crisis and ongoing Climate Emergency we must ensure that our long term economic planning puts people and the environment at its core. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation outlines our vision to create a wellbeing economy: a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that delivers prosperity for all of Scotland’s people and places.
The principles of a wellbeing economy cannot be achieved through simply redistributing a portion of the wealth created. They need to be hard-wired into everything we do to develop our economy. Community Wealth Building can help us achieve that.
The strategic Community Wealth Building approach is grounded in solid economic concepts and approaches. Crucially, Community Wealth Building is also a very practical model and we are already deploying and moving forward with the model in Scotland. By considering new legislation on Community Wealth Building to bind and consolidate existing practice, we seek to give that work a strengthened platform from which we can deepen and accelerate delivery.
Many countries and places across the globe are questioning their economic priorities. For years we have implemented policies which have sought to grow and redistribute wealth, and we achieved some great things. However, with the growing incidence of global crises, it is clear that if we are to truly realise a sustainable wellbeing economy, we need to consider bold, alternative economic approaches for the long term. This recognition is what is promoting Community Wealth Building across the globe – from its origins in Cleveland, USA to places such as Preston in England, Chicago, Sydney and Amsterdam. Other places are also examining the potential of the approach as a way of building stronger and more resilient local and regional economies.
The Community Wealth Building journey in Scotland started with the pioneering work in Ayrshire, followed by a series of pilot locations supported by the Scottish Government. And whilst we should celebrate the progress we have already made in implementing Community Wealth Building in such a short space of time, the job is far from done. In this we must go further and faster. This is not a luxury reform agenda, or more of the same. It is a central cog in our reform agenda which seeks to re-wire our economy for this generation and for future generations.
That is why the introduction of legislation on Community Wealth Building in this Parliamentary session is significant. This commitment is part of a strategic approach to creating a wellbeing economy, empowering communities and supporting local and regional economic development. This activity includes the upcoming Land Reform Bill, the commitment to a series of Just Transition Plans, the National Planning Framework 4, the Refreshed Fair Work Action Plan and the review of the Community Empowerment Act, amongst other progressive programmes to support economic reform.
Legislation is not the only thing that will assist in the growth of Community Wealth Building. In fact, a range of powers that can help to accelerate the realisation of a thriving wellbeing economy remain reserved to Westminster. However, changing the law can be key to securing gains already made in practice and advancing implementation. In this consultation we seek a broad range of views on what is required to accelerate and deepen Community Wealth Building in Scotland, learning from the good practice already underway including through the leading role of local authorities. Whilst the Scottish Government is committed to doing all it can to progress Community Wealth Building within devolved powers, I would also welcome feedback on reserved areas respondents would like us to work with the UK Government on where there is potential to accelerate the implementation of Community Wealth Building.
I am grateful to the members of the Community Wealth Building Bill Steering Group who have helped to guide the development of this consultation. I am also grateful to the many public sector anchor organisations, businesses, third sector organisations and community groups who have taken the time to showcase their examples of Community Wealth Building to me and share thoughts on how we move this crucial approach forward.
It has been highlighted that Scotland is fast becoming a global leader in Community Wealth Building. I encourage you to be bold, ambitious and creative in responding to this consultation. That is what is required if we are to realise this opportunity to fully unleash the power of Community Wealth Building in Scotland, to ensure that communities across Scotland have a greater stake in the wealth that is generated and that wellbeing for all is assured.
Tom Arthur MSP
Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth