A while back I met a delegation from Sweden’s municipalities – their most local tier of government. The population size of the average municipality is 34,000 which, compared to elsewhere in Europe, is relatively large but minuscule compared to Scotland (170,000) What particularly intrigued the Swedes was the range of activities that Scotland’s communities undertake – services that Sweden’s municipalities would routinely expect to deliver. As I launched into my usual diatribe about Scotland’s dearth of genuine local democracy, they countered by bemoaning their own lack of community activism, warning me to be careful what I wished for. However, it was their other questions that troubled me more. How are communities made accountable for what they do and the public money they spend? Community-led housing and social care providers aside, regulation of our sector is undeniably light touch. And for the most part, perhaps that’s as it should be. But for those communities that own land and buildings, run complex enterprises or deliver public services, perhaps a little more regulation and scrutiny would be no bad thing. I hear the groans but if our public sector partners have no cause to trust us, how can we expect to be treated as equals?
In the most recent briefing…
Car ownership and rural living seem to go hand in hand. And that, for any number of reasons, is not particularly sustainable. But if, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to drive, life immediately becomes highly problematic. With public transport in steady decline as bus companies claim they are unable to sustain services on less profitable routes, rural communities have had to step up and devise their own solutions. A perfect example of which comes from Ferintosh Community Council in Ross-shire. After some trial and error, this demand-led transport solution is one that could easily be replicated elsewhere.
For ten years the Scottish Government persevered with the Climate Challenge Fund to support community-based climate action. £100m was ploughed into over 1000 projects but in the final analysis, although there were many great projects, very few of the benefits persisted beyond the end of the funding. A new and hopefully more embedded approach to supporting community climate action is now underway. With climate action towns, plans, festivals, regional hubs and networks all being simultaneously developed by different agencies, it’s vital that all these initiatives form part of an integrated whole. Some early lessons here from the climate action towns initiative.
Strolling through Edinburgh’s newest ‘retail experience’ – St James Quarter – it’s clear that our obsession with buying ‘stuff’ is undiminished which makes one wonder whether within the Scottish Government there isn’t some cognitive dissonance at play. On the one hand legislation to establish a circular economy is planned while on the other the national economic strategy is predicated on everyone continuing to buy stuff we really don’t need. As ever it’s a community response, this time from Govan, that exemplifies how to address the combined complexity of building a circular economy, building community wealth and the cost of living crisis.
Years ago I worked in a large local authority and was closely involved with the funding arrangements for the city’s voluntary sector. I had previously only worked on the ‘other side of the table’ and so the whole experience was something of a revelation. It was in the era of Service Level Agreements which seemed to be shorthand for, ‘if you want our money, you’ll do as we tell you’. The language may have changed, but these attitudes and cultures run deep. SCVO’s Kirsten Hogg has lost patience with politicians inventing promising soundbites that change nothing on the ground.
Perhaps it’s the warm weather, but the harsh reality of what’s coming later this year in terms of household fuel bills doesn’t seem to have fully hit home. But combined with the price increases in virtually every other area of household spending, it’s surely reasonable to expect more from our politicians than their pained expressions and a wringing of hands? If ever there was a time for some radical thinking and big ideas it must be now. The concept of a Minimum Income Standard is by no means fanciful and many view it as a step towards more enlightened times
There was a time when the official view from within the Scottish Government was that ‘land reform was done’ and that those agitating for more should be satisfied with what had already been achieved. As we now know, that view didn’t persist for long and land reform has continued to be one of the most consistent and progressive features of the Scottish Government’s legislative programme. Further legislation is now being planned with a consultation launched last week. At first glance, this will make uncomfortable reading for those who had hoped land reform was ‘done and dusted’ all those years ago.
Cassiltoun Housing Association started life as the Castlemilk East Housing Co-operative in 1984, when nine tenants in the Ballantay area decided to do something about the appalling conditions they were living in. With the support of Glasgow City Council, 90 of the Council’s houses were eventually transferred to ‘the co-op’, the first such housing stock transfer in Glasgow. Today Cassiltoun Housing Association is a community owned housing association managing its own stock of 1,000 houses. Its work is concerned with physical, social, environmental and economic matters, such as healthcare, crime prevention and lifelong learning initiatives and the development of skills,…Find out more