One of the most intriguing, albeit unintended, consequences of doubling Scotland’s renewable energy capacity, is the opportunity that it affords our community and voluntary sector to become financially independent of the public purse. Whether the powers that be would consider that prospect a threat or an opportunity is increasingly moot because no one seems even remotely interested in discussing it. Setting aside the current system of ‘voluntary’ community benefit payments from developers (£5k per MW) which, considering the projected scale of expansion, is in serious need of a refresh, it is in ownership where the real potential lies. The fact that developers now routinely offer shared ownership as an added enticement to get their proposals over the line is the clue to the extraordinary profits being extracted from, rather than invested in, our communities. Full ownership by a community is however, the game changer. By way of illustration – Point and Sandwick Trust, owner of a small wind farm on Lewis, pays an average net dividend to its community of £1.1m pa. If the turbines had been privately owned, the community would have received a payment in the region of £45k. It’s chalk and cheese. What are we waiting for?
In the most recent briefing…
Although in serious decline, there remains at least some visible evidence of the social infrastructure that was originally created to support the nation’s collective wellbeing. Facilities such as public libraries, parks, social housing and the NHS were all at one time considered prerequisites of a healthy civic state. One component of that infrastructure however has disappeared without trace and Nourish Scotland are campaigning to have it restored – the public diner. In the 40s and 50s there were more public diners than there are MacDonalds today. There’s surely never been a better time to reprise the public diner.
The vital contribution that having access to nature has on our physical and mental wellbeing was one of the major learning points of the pandemic. Since then there’s been a marked increase in the number of GPs willing to issue ‘nature’ or ‘green’ prescriptions for a range of ailments that patients routinely present them with. But there can be challenges for many people, particularly in areas of disadvantage, in getting out into nature. And that is where projects like The Ripple come in. A great piece in The Ferret which illustrates the impact of this community led health provision.
Anyone who lives even remotely online must have experienced at some point an attempted scam or witnessed some fraudulent activity on their bank accounts. While the corporates can afford to wage a cyber war against the account hackers and cyber-attackers, as citizens it seems the only defence we can muster is vigilance and common sense. And the same probably applies to our sector for whom a cyber attack must rate as one of the highest risks. The recent experience of one development trust in Orkney should serve to put the rest of the sector on high alert.
Star of the show at DTAS’s conference earlier this year was a Dane called Soren Hermansen talking about the energy system on the island of Samso where he lives. Although his talk was principally about a decentralised energy system it was as much about issues of ownership and control and Denmark’s hyper local system of democracy. A system that has enabled so much of what is to be admired about the country. Lesley Riddoch was in the audience, liked very much what she heard and decided to follow up with a film exploring why Denmark is such a happy place.
When Andy Wightman fell out with the Green Party and subsequently failed to get elected as an independent MSP, it was widely acknowledged that the Scottish Parliament was much the poorer for it. In typical fashion, and anticipating a Land Reform Bill that will fail to hit the mark when it comes before the Scottish Parliament, Andy has signalled his intention to publish a Land Reform Bill that will go far beyond the existing proposals by proposing how to democratise land governance. It’s an ambitious counterpoint to the expected underwhelming content of the Scottish Government’s Bill
We’ve all sat in meetings where the general tenor of a discussion seems either perverse or misguided and yet we don’t speak up or ask the obvious question because we don’t want to appear contrary or just plain stupid. And so we just go along with it because it is too uncomfortable to disagree. This is called groupthink or herd behaviour – a phenomenon that is credited with some of the worst collective decisions ever made. Interesting article by Martin Stanley, Editor of Understanding Government, who suggests four key lessons that policy makers should bear in mind.
Westray is the largest of Orkney’s North Isles that until the mid 90’s was characterized by depopulation, a decline in traditional industries (agriculture and fishing), a limited range of employment opportunities and geographical remoteness that was adversely affecting the cost of living and the provision of services. The development trust was established in 1998 in response to these challenges. Many of the projects included in the initial strategic plan have now been achieved, for example the establishment of a youth centre, the construction of a care centre in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, and the commissioning of a community owned…Find out more