At this time of year, loneliness, that scourge of the modern era, tends to attract more attention than usual. Latest research suggests nine million people in the UK feel lonely most of the time and while older people are most vulnerable, this is something that can beset anyone at any age. And it carries a serious health warning. Loneliness kills. The fact that it has reached such epidemic proportions suggests that its root causes are now systemic, reflecting some deep-seated malaise within society. Scottish Government is committed to take action – a national strategy on loneliness is expected soon. But speaking recently about new research into the impact that simple acts of kindness can have, Carnegie UK’s CEO Martyn Evans points a finger of blame at government and our public agencies, and even our larger charities, for embracing an increasingly hard-edged professionalism and a transactional culture in which human warmth and kindness are virtually anathema. And by contrast, he lauds the work of small-scale, local charities where real compassion and humanity abound. If Scottish Government is to succeed in its ambition to reduce loneliness, the solutions, as with so many aspects of national policy, will have to be local.
In the most recent briefing…
Ten years ago, The National Trust for Scotland which owns the tiny island of Canna, tried and failed to regenerate life on the island. Its attempt to attract new residents ended in bitter acrimony with accusations of dysfunctional management and broken promises on the part of NTS. NTS now claim the days of paternalistic management are over (was it ever appropriate?) and accept that the community should take control. But only up to a point. NTS continue to claim they must own the island in accordance with the terms of the original bequest. Time for a smart lawyer perhaps?
These are boom times for television. With more channels and choice than ever before, and with the ability to stream virtually anything that has ever been broadcast direct to any screen you care to mention, it’s a wonder that any particular programme is able to capture the public’s attention sufficiently to make an impact. But Blue Planet II has certainly done that. Setting aside the jaw dropping images, Attenborourgh’s message on marine pollution seemed to strike a chord with many, and one group of young people from Ullapool in particular.
In many communities, particularly some of the most disadvantaged, it is the faith groups that are the stalwarts of community life, running youth clubs, mother and toddlers’ groups, providing space and volunteers for foodbanks and so on. They often fulfil the role of what is commonly referred to as a community anchor. But there seems to be a distinct separation between the local people who commit to a church in so many different ways and the church hierarchy who manage the physical assets of the church but just don’t get the concept of community assets. Lesley Riddoch takes aim.
The Scottish Alliance for People and Places (SAPP), which draws its membership from a range of organisations within the planning sector, aims to present ‘a united and compelling vision’ of what the planning system should be. It’s most recent paper argues, amongst other things, that giving communities a right of appeal would lead to greater inequalities and conflict. The extent to which this particular view reflects a ‘united vision’ is likely to be challenged by many communities with first-hand experience of the system. Andy Wightman writing in the National argues for a more level playing field all round.
Just as everyone was closing for Christmas, the Third Sector team at Scottish Government announced that its funding for the umbrella body of Scotland’s Third Sector Interfaces – Voluntary Action Scotland – would not continue beyond Sept 2018. This announcement comes almost a year to the day since Scottish Government published its review of Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) and their associated supporting infrastructure. While clearly a difficult and contentious decision for Scottish Government to take, many chief officers in the TSI network took serious issue with the manner and tone of its reporting by Third Force News.
The announcement towards the end of last year that The Royal Bank of Scotland had decided to close 62 branches across Scotland has been greeted with particular dismay in the more remote rural and small town communities. The assumption that bank branches are a relic from the past and that online banking is the preferred option is one that many have taken issue with. Scottish Rural Action has taken up the cudgels on this issue and will be presenting evidence at the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster on 17th Jan. SRA is keen to gather your views.
Buried deep amongst the ninety two different actions contained in the Scottish Government’s Social Enterprise Action Plan are a small number that will send a shiver down the backs of all those who have tried (and failed) in years gone by to establish a robust means of measuring the social impact of the sector. Undaunted by past failures, Scottish Government is committed to develop a distinctly ‘Scottish approach’ to this age-old conundrum. Writing in his regular blog, Alan Kay, a long standing proponent of social audit, is particularly exercised about our obsession with measuring growth.
As COSLA and Scottish Government’s Local Governance Review get underway, questions relating to power, what it is, where it resides, how it is exercised and the extent to which people are prepared to share it, will inevitably get a good airing. Some would argue that the very essence of power is changing, and even dissolving, as a result of the advent of digital networks and globalisation. Others argue that these influences have had quite the opposite effect. Jeff Mulgan, CEO of NESTA, shares his thoughts.