Scottish Community Alliance member networks engage with over 2000 community based organisations and enterprises located the length and breadth of Scotland, which:
- Have well over 100,000 individual members,
- Employ 5,500 staff,
- Engage 20,000 volunteers,
- Own or manage 250,000 hectares of land,
- Own or manage hundreds of buildings of all shapes and sizes
- Have a combined annual income of £600 million
Our overarching aim is to help the community sector in Scotland to develop its own distinct identity and voice so that it can campaign effectively on a wide range of issues. We see our work as having two main functions – to promote the work of local people in their communities and to influence national policy development.
The Alliance connects and advances these two aspects of our work through ‘Local People Leading’ – our fortnightly e-mail briefings – and our linked website. We also host occasional events for face to face dialogue between supporters.
What we are
The Scottish Community Alliance is leading the campaign for a strong and independent community sector in Scotland. It was initiated in Jan 2007 by an informal coalition of four national networks: Development Trust Association Scotland, Community Woodlands Association, Community Recycling Network Scotland and Senscot. When this informal gathering of networks came together we used the ‘wrapper’ of Local People Leading to give us a collective identity. Each of these organisations serves community based memberships and together they share a vision of an empowered and independent community sector. Since 2007, Local People Leading was joined by more and more networks with community based memberships. Towards the end of 2010, these networks agreed to formalise this loose arrangement by adopting a constitution and renaming itself – The Scottish Community Alliance.
Those networks that were involved in setting up LPL took the view at the time that creating a separate organisation would have as many disadvantages as benefits. The intention was that LPL should be seen as a ‘wrapper’ or ‘kite mark’ which denotes certain shared beliefs, values and intentions – the way the Fairtrade kitemark works. As a campaign to empower communities, LPL was not something distinct from the work already undertaken by participating bodies but served as a joining of forces. Admin functions (management of staff, finance etc) were carried out by a nominated lead organisation (DTA Scotland) – the accountable body. As relationships between these networks had time to develop and levels of mutual trust were able to grow, it was felt that the time was right to formalise the arrangement by constituting the organisation and renaming it the Scottish Community Alliance. A founding principle that all parties subscribed to was that SCA should remain small in size with the emphasis of its work being reflected through the activities of its member networks.
Membership is open to national or regional networks with community based memberships that share the aims and values of Scottish Community Alliance. Any network that wishes to join SCA should intimate their intention to join by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . The Executive Group (who are the Trustees of the SCIO) will consider the application and recommend it be approved or refused to the next full meeting of Scottish Communtiy Alliance. There is no membership fee.
The Scottish Community Alliance takes the view that as a result of the centralist policies of national and local governments over the last 20 -30 years – local democracy in the UK is at a low ebb. We believe that the cornerstone for developing a more sustainable, inclusive and democratic society is for communities to have more control and responsibility for issues that matter most locally. All across the country there are examples of communities that have acted to empower themselves. The vision we share is of a vigorous community sector, able to engage in a new relationship between the state, community organisations and citizens.
Why we formed
A recognised need to address the following key factors was central to the formation of the Scottish Community Alliance:
The UK’s elected local councillors answer to an average constituency of 2,600 voters. The equivalent constituency is 667 in Sweden, 250 in Germany and 116 in France. Local election turnout is 80% in Sweden and 70% in Germany; in the UK it runs around at 33%. All our political parties now agree that the excessive centralization of state power has damaged local democracy in Britain and that something must be done to pass power back down to people and communities.
Top down has failed
Scotland’s Regeneration Policy “People and Place” emphasizes physical rather than social regeneration and the roles of the public and private sectors rather than communities. Audit Scotland’s review of Community Planning Partnerships found that they are failing to engage effectively with communities and that half of them don’t even have local representation. The review of the Government’s Community Voices programme found it limited both in reach and effectiveness. The Community Sector in Scotland lacks overall co-ordination and is without a collective voice. As a result, it has been marginalized from mainstream policy development.
Local people leading
Despite a lack of support from central and local government over the years, all across Scotland local people have continued to organise and take action at a neighbourhhood level to improve their communities. Much of this activity is informal and unfunded, relying on the voluntary support of local people to sustain itself. More formal organisations such as housing associations and community trusts, also under the control and management of local people, often operate alongside this informal activity and provide the support and leadership to sustain it.
The scale and diversity of all this local activity creates the ‘social glue’ that binds a community together and generates the civic pride that people feel for the place they live. The Alliance believes that the importance of this contribution to the health and well-being of civil society is not sufficiently recognised nor supported by government. Indeed, the Alliance contends that much of this community led activity is routinely discouraged and resisted by local councils. Scotland needs a ‘gathering point’ where organisations and individuals who support community empowerment can join forces to campaign for change.
Who we are
The following networks make up the Scottish Community Alliance. Please click on a network to find out about their members and the impact they are having in communities across Scotland.