I’ve always been keen on football – not as fanatical as some but enough for there to be only one team whose fortunes I really care about. I’m an armchair fan these days so it’s really just the on field action that interests me but as I discovered from reading the pick of my Christmas books, The Roaring Red Front , there’s another side to football that I’d scarcely been aware of. A thriving subculture has evolved in certain clubs around the world that is both highly networked and entirely driven by the most fervent sections of their fanbase (ultras). For these fans, the game itself seems less important than safeguarding the left leaning ethos of their clubs, promoting values of inclusivity, diversity and community, and often actively challenging the rise of far right ideologies. Although just one Scottish club (mine!) merits a mention in the book, scratch below the ‘playing surface’ of most of our clubs, especially those rooted in their communities, and an intriguing picture emerges. Perhaps not as overtly political as those in the book, many have nonetheless established community trusts to pursue much wider social goals than football itself. Just another reason to love this beautiful game.
In the most recent briefing…
When discussing land and community ownership, the debates between repopulating and rewilding, carbon markets and the rise of the ‘green lairds’, can all seem very polarising with few opportunities for compromise to be struck. The community on the Tayvallich peninsular have been trying to raise the funds to purchase the estate they live on. Over Christmas, it was announced that a ‘mass ownership’ company – Highland Rewilding – had been declared the preferred bidder instead of themselves. As Tayvallich Initiative openly acknowledge, this wouldn’t be community ownership as we understand it but potentially it could be the next best thing. Interesting.
Notwithstanding that there’s still no sign of any additional funding being made available to support communities to produce Local Place Plans, we can assume that because these Plans are mentioned in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, many communities will inevitably feel they should give it a go. The Improvement Service which has some responsibility to ‘support’ community councils has recently purchased some free to use mapping software to support the process. Parish Online has been widely used in England and has been adapted for use in Scotland. Worth a look even if Local Place Plans are not your thing.
For as long as we have been talking about the transformative potential of the huge renewable energy resource (wind) on the Western Isles, we’ve also been talking about a lack of investment in the necessary infrastructure that’s needed to exploit that potential. But no more. Energy regulator Ofgem has given the green light to the ‘subsea interconnector’, thereby connecting wind farms on Western Isles to the national grid. Hailed by Council leader Paul Steele as the most significant economic development ever seen in the Western Isles, this is certain to be a gamechanger for the many community land owners.
It’s 20 years since the Freedom of Information legislation was introduced in Scotland and back then only public authorities were made subject to FOI requests. But much has changed in the way that public services are delivered with both the private and third sectors now playing an increased role. On the grounds of improving transparency and public accountability, there’s a growing clamour for the FOI reach to be extended to include part or even all of our sector. This is a complex issue with potentially serious implications for our sector – one that we should all engage with.
A tenet of the regeneration world seems to be that in housing terms, high rise living is inherently bad, no one wants it and it should be demolished whenever possible. Housing behemoth Wheatley seem wedded to this particular piece of regeneration dogma in relation to the Wyndford Estate in Glasgow and are prepared to fly in the face of what their tenants want, of environmental concerns at the carbon cost of demolition and rebuilding only half as many low rise homes, and even a potential heritage listing by Historic Environment Scotland. Profits before people and planet?
Last month Gordon Brown published his latest proposals for renewing democracy. Nothing particularly new but it’s always interesting to note that it’s only when people leave office, when they no longer hold power, that’s when they start to have the more radical ideas. One such proposal – for local authorities to have elected mayors – has been picked up by thinktank Reform Scotland in their new report Localising Power. An interesting idea and one that could easily be picked up in the Local Governance Review and a subsequent Local Democracy Bill – both stalled by the Scottish Government despite being manifesto commitments.
The WAT IF? area covers the three rural villages of Woolfords, Auchengray and Tarbrax, along with several small hamlets and outlying settlements. 90% of the area is in South Lanarkshire, with 10% in West Lothian, covering the small hamlet of Cobbinshaw. The Trust was formed in 2012 to ensure that community benefit funds from the various windfarm developments in the area were distributed in the local area for community led projects and improvements. Although the villages are classed as rural, they are easily accessible from Livingston and Edinburgh, however infrastructure is lacking and one of the key priorities for WAT…Find out more