Dismissed out of hand by the political establishment, and even by Orcadians as a bit of fun, Orkney’s recent decision to explore a different sort of relationship with the rest of Scotland and the UK, with a northward glance to their Nordic neighbours, is not as daft as it seems. One wonders just how many other council leaders will be (privately) applauding this act of defiance – albeit as things stand, one that is doomed to fail. But this felt different to the usual moans of a council aggrieved at its funding allocation. This was a direct challenge to the democratic legitimacy of both Scottish and UK Governments – a legitimacy that depends entirely on the freely given consent of those who are governed – and here was Orkney giving notice that it had withdrawn that consent. Of course, life will go on with or without the say so of Orkney Islands Council, but their rebellious gesture serves to expose the precarious nature of local democracy. Which is why so much hangs on the next phase of the Local Governance Review and beyond that, a Local Democracy Bill. If the Review generates anything like the chutzpah shown by Orkney, things might just become interesting.
In the most recent briefing…
As Scotland transitions to clean, renewable sources of energy, there remains a stubborn official ambivalence towards the merits of community ownership as part of the overall mix of how this new industry should develop. This is despite research that suggests community owned renewables generate a financial return to the community 34 times greater than that of private wind farms. But community energy is about much more than purely financial returns or even the energy that is generated, and if this was better appreciated, perhaps that official ambivalence would melt away. This piece highlights ten social benefits of community-owned energy.
For all sorts of reasons, the idea of public toilets being converted into high end restaurants seems like a bad idea but in my hometown alone I know of two in the last year. The steady stream of closures by councils everywhere of these vital public facilities is something that can turn a mild inconvenience for some, into a desperate dash for others. No surprise then that communities are increasingly stepping into the breach. Public loos are of course especially vital for tourism and so the ever creative SCOTO has just launched the SCOTO Loo Trail.
The effort that goes into explaining the distinctions between different aspects of third sector activity can sometimes feel like dancing on the head of a pin. Many social enterprises are charities but not all charities are social enterprises. All community action can be counted as voluntary action but not all voluntary effort is communal effort and so on. Nonetheless, there are certain features of community or communal action that can be evidenced in cultures across the world. They just have different names – bayanihan in the Philippines, talkoot in Finland and minga in South America. Different words, universal meaning.
When Senscot (Social Entrepreneur Network SCOTland) began its work, the term ‘social entrepreneur’ had a certain cachet. These were the social pioneers setting up new social businesses that would change the world for the better. At the time, many who worked in the public sector felt that they were on a similar mission albeit from a different starting point. Someone coined the phrase, ‘social intrapreneurs’ to describe those wanting to effect change from within. A proposed social intrapreneur network never took off but these folk must still exist. If so, they might find a new home in the ‘Rebel Alliance’.
Whether it is due to the interminable ferry fiasco, the perpetual housing crisis or the additional cost of everything, life on our islands seems pretty precarious. And while there’s always a temptation for the grass to appear greener, in this case, on the other side of the Irish Sea, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Irish Government’s new ten year strategy – Our Living Islands – which focuses on their thirty inhabited islands. Perhaps this year’s Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament, due to be held in Fort William, might do a ‘compare and contrast’ with our own National Islands Plan.
When the idea of community benefit payments was first mooted, it related to wind farm developers and the implication was that these payments were somehow a compensation for the visual impact of sticking up large turbines where previously there had been none. Community benefit has recently become a much more widely applied concept to any changes in land use or ownership. However, much work requires to be done to clarify what form that benefit should take, who should receive it and, most fundamentally of all, why. Useful contribution from Scottish Land Commission in relation to the emerging natural capital market.
A former regeneration area, with strong industrial links, Greater Maryhill has seen a renaissance in recent years. However the community still has a poor health record, and suffers from youth gang territorialism. A diverse community, with many cultures living alongside each other, Maryhill still has the spirit of “old” Glasgow and the friendly community feel within the City Centre. Community Central Hall was built in the early 1920’s and when the building came up for sale in the early 1970’s, an action group was formed to prevent the building being sold for private development. Over the past 35 years CCH…Find out more