The first time I heard the phrase ‘proceed until apprehended,’ I was mildly shocked – principally because this was the normally mild-mannered Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP exhorting his audience to what sounded like some semi-anarchic behaviour. But clearly exasperated with consistently poor outcomes from Scotland’s public services, and the continuing failure of the Community Planning ‘project’ to become anything like joined-up, it was a plea for everyone to become a little less risk averse and even to consider breaking the odd rule. Similar sentiments were being voiced at last month’s gathering in Birnam to consider how to ease Scotland’s ever deepening rural housing crisis. The relatively new phenomenon of over-tourism, aided and abetted by the rapacious advance of Airbnb, has distorted the housing market in some areas to such an extent that whole swathes of the country could soon become the exclusive preserve of holiday makers and the asset-rich retired. Creating genuinely affordable homes in places where people want to live and work is clearly a huge challenge, but without land to build on, it becomes impossible. It’s not the only answer, but bringing much more land under community ownership would help – let’s proceed with haste until apprehended.
In the most recent briefing…
The circular economy – eliminating waste and extending the life of the things we use in our everyday lives – is an idea whose time has surely arrived. But with the best will in the world, unless you know how to reuse, repurpose or upcycle some item, all too often it ends up in the recycling bin in the forlorn hope that someone else will know what to do with it. But knowledge and information is a key asset in the circular economy and this is why the latest innovation from Changeworks is a potential gamechanger. An interactive, reuse community map.
If you read the sports pages you might conclude that Scottish football is in the doldrums and indeed has been wallowing about in that state since the national team last qualified for a major tournament (1998 World Cup). But, in parallel with this decline at the top end of the senior game, there has been a refocusing and a reappraisal of the relationship that football has with its grass roots. Community-based clubs are starting to be acknowledged more widely for the multiple local benefits that they generate. And these benefits have a significant cash worth.
Over-tourism is hard to define in precise terms but you’ll know it when it starts to afflict your community. The tiny and picturesque village of Luss which sits on the edge of Loch Lomond was suffering long before the term was even coined. With an annual visitor invasion of 750,000, the 120 strong population feel besieged and pretty much abandoned to their fate by Argyll and Bute Council. The Community Council are powerless to act but have got to the stage where they might just take things into their own hands. Who could blame them?
This summer, check how many insects are splattered against your windscreen. A clean windscreen is a bad sign for the health of our biodiversity but its loss can easily go unnoticed. The same ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle applies to our marine biodiversity. Unless you dive off the coast of Scotland you won’t know what’s been happening to marine biodiversity on your seabed. Coastal communities are deeply concerned about the lack of protections that have been put in place, and over the past few years have developed an increasingly effective national voice. This article explains why we should all be concerned.
Some years ago, a report was published by Locality that provided unequivocal evidence to back up what common sense has been telling us for years – that small scale, local providers of services will ultimately provide better quality, better value and better outcomes for the users of those services. The trick was to find the public bodies – mainly local authorities – who understood the concept and would commission services accordingly. It took a while but now a growing number (in England) are. Surely our cash strapped councils should, at the very least, give some thought to this.
Have you ever wondered where an idea came from, particularly when it appears to come from a politician or surfaces in a party’s election manifesto. A somewhat opaque world of special advisors, policy wonks, think tanks and lobbyists generally combine to create the agenda that ultimately impacts on our communities. But perhaps our policy makers should cast their net a bit wider for some big picture thinking before committing pen to policy paper. Gerry Hassan, writing in the Scottish Review, tapped some of Scotland’s brightest and best for their thoughts.
Glancing back over the brief history of the Scottish Parliament, a consistent thread running through its legislative programme has been that of land reform. The 2003 Act was widely recognised as the Parliament’s first landmark piece of legislation and subsequent to that, two further pieces of legislation have moved the debate steadily forward and probably even whetted our appetite for more. Timely then for the publication of a very readable review of where we’ve got to with land reform and some thoughts on where we might be heading next. Affordable too (paperback version).
In many respects, it was the dysfunctional housing market that precipitated the financial crash 12 years ago. Reckless subprime lending in the States led to thousands of families losing their homes, with these bad debts then being sold on around the global financial markets. The long term human cost is still washing through the system with one in fifteen Americans now living in trailer parks (200,000 in the UK). Hard to believe that the money men are now circling these trailer parks and see them as the next big opportunity to squeeze even more profit out of housing. When America sneezes…