I used to reassure myself that an upside of getting older would be a measure of wisdom. Or at least, a little less uncertainty. Unfortunately it hasn’t really worked out that way. And in particular, the whys and wherefores of how some old ideas that have never attracted much interest can suddenly become the policy zeitgeist remain a mystery. And so it is with community wealth building. Across every sphere of government, local and national, the virtues of using the public pound to build stronger, more resilient and sustainable local economies has, in no time at all, become a policy no-brainer that unites (almost) everyone. And yet arguments which dispel the myth of chasing after economies of scale in public services (see Local By Default) or which unequivocally prove the multiple benefits of the locally spent pound, have been around for years. But whether this shift in policy thinking is down to serendipity or a deep analysis of the issues, or a bit of both, doesn’t really matter. What matters is to acknowledge that community wealth building is no quick fix. This needs to be for the long haul, with the resources to match. But there again, what do I know?
In the most recent briefing…
The loss of natural habitats and a dramatic decline of plant and animal species in the natural world is on a par with the climate emergency, and in the conservation world a view persists that indigenous and local communities often undermine efforts to conserve endangered species. New longitudinal research has turned these assumptions on their head, offering clear evidence that local groups are by far the most effective stewards of their environment. Utilising local knowledge and working to a shared vision have proven much more effective than solutions imposed by governments or NGOs. Who’d have thought?
Climate science is complicated and most people find it nigh on impossible to grasp all aspects of it, let alone work out what they can do about it. Which is presumably where the fast growing network of Climate Cafes has sprung from. Climate Cafes are completely informal local places where local people gather, ask questions of themselves and others, and share and discuss ideas for action amongst themselves. A simple but brilliant idea that is spreading fast across the country.
When the country went into lockdown there was a strange sense of systems shutting down and normal business being suspended as simultaneously an astonishing array of local responses to Covid kicked in. One process that didn’t shut down, in part because it played such a key role in the Covid response, was the small number of community land buy-outs that had been nearing completion when lockdown happened. These and the other more recent buy-outs that had completed but didn’t have time to organise a celebration, are all being exclusively featured in this year’s Community Land Week.
When gaps started to appear on supermarket shelves – especially in the fruit and veg sections – it was a timely reminder of the value of local food production and local supply chains. And with the launch of a new Scottish Government consultation highlighting the multiple benefits of local food, new light has been shone on the potential contribution of Scotland’s community growers within a more localised food system. That light is shining even brighter since a group of gardeners in Glasgow’s west end were recently crowned UK’s Best Community Garden.
An irritating habit amongst former public servants who have operated at the highest levels of public service is that it’s only when they retire, that they begin to say the things that needed to be said when they had the power to make the difference. Paul Gray, former CEO of NHS Scotland, now calls for much more fundamental reform than is currently being mooted. He cites healthcare systems elsewhere that actually work and points to the one feature they all share – a degree of local control and service integration that would scare the living daylights out of our politicians.
When the National Performance Framework was launched every self-respecting civil servant would have a copy of the ‘flower’ within line of sight of their desk. The Scottish Government was widely praised for publishing such a public record of what progress was being made towards high level outcomes and our national purpose. But NPF was always intended as a truly ‘national’ framework – not just for Government or the public sector but for all parts of Scottish society to take ownership of. Do you feel that sense of ownership? Do you use it? To their credit, the NPF team wants to know.
Like every other wicked problem, Scotland’s rural housing crisis is multi-dimensional and so if it is ever to be resolved, it is going to take an approach that reflects all that complexity and is equally multi-layered. Rural Housing Scotland may be onto something with an approach that takes an age-old concept, the clachan – the old name for a settlement or hamlet – but with a modern twist by adding a number of ‘smart’ components. Working with community landowners in Western Isles, the Smart Clachan is based around cooperative principles while using modern technology and energy systems.
When the dust settled on the 2019 Planning (Scotland) Act, instead of strengthening the hand of communities in the appeals process, we were left with a new right for communities to develop their own place plans. Notwithstanding that many communities had been producing their own place plans for years, a new set of rules and regulations for the production of Local Place Plans will soon land in the intray of communities everywhere. To get an idea of what these might look like, an analysis of the recent Scottish Government consultation has just been published. It doesn’t bode well.
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