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15th May 2019

Once upon a time, national politicians were held in such high regard that voters would actually turn out in droves just to wave them off when they travelled down to Westminster. While such displays of deference to authority belong to a bygone era, it’s surely in no one’s interests that so many of today’s politicians struggle for a scintilla of respect and credibility with the voting public.  But then, at a recent community event I met a young man who had just lost in a council by-election. I asked whether he was nonetheless seeking a career in politics. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I live here, I love this community and I just want to make it a better place – I’ve no interest in national stuff nor any of the big parties.’ Faith in (local) politics somewhat restored. As things stand though, his disdain for mainstream party politics is likely to thwart his ambitions. That said, the recent local elections down south give some cause for optimism. The rise of the Yorkshire Party and the Independents for Frome suggesting that local connections and a genuine commitment to community can, just occasionally, trump tribal party loyalties. Politicians everywhere, especially local ones, should remember that.

In the most recent briefing…

    • Community heritage shapes us all

      Community heritage may be difficult to define in precise terms but what is self-evident is that in Scotland we have it in spades. Whether it is the tangible stuff – the buildings and all the artefacts that tell our collective histories or whether it’s the intangible – the folklore, songs, traditions and stories – it is our local heritage that largely provides us with our sense of place, identity and belonging. Is there a community anywhere without some kind of heritage group? A new network, the Scottish Community Heritage Alliance is starting to find its feet.

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    • Local learning

      Good news for those communities with a hankering to visit another community where something of particular interest to them is happening, the Community Learning Exchange is once again open for business. These small awards that pay for travel and subsistence and a host fee, have proved very popular and effective – low on cost, high on impact. What is certainly true is that there is very little that is truly new under the sun and there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. There’s also much to be gained from learning from your peers.

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    • How to be a caring community.

      Despite the inference from the much maligned Planning Bill that Local Place Plans could be a meaningful activity for communities to get their teeth into, the truth is that communities have been drawing up their own plans for years – usually as some kind of expression of local ambition for their place. The processes employed by communties to produce these plans are extremely varied. One approach, developed by Architecture and Design Scotland, has caught the eye. By asking what it would take to become a caring community, A&DS considered that question from the perspective of four fictional persona.

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    • Climate change to emergency

      It’s hard to gauge whether the current spotlight on climate emergency (as opposed to change) reflects any real shift in popular opinion. Time will be the judge of whether governments and citizens alike are prepared to make the kind of changes to policy and lifestyle that the science unequivocally points to. In his blog, Pete Ritchie of Nourish Scotland expresses his disappointment at the media’s generally lazy reaction to the focus on reaching net zero emissions, but sets out a very positive call to arms for the citizen. This is a moment to grasp with both hands.

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    • New fund, old strategy

      Big funding news for communities last week came with the launch of Scottish Government’s new, streamlined £11.5m Investing in Communities Fund. The headline news is that communities can now seek multi-year funding – £250k over 3 years. These funds are very welcome but it’s worth noting that they are informed by a government strategy that predates both the Community Empowerment Act and recent land reform legislation. The policy landscape has moved on significantly since the Regeneration Strategy was published in 2011 and at the very least, this strategy could do with a refresh – ideally co-produced with the sector.

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    • How urban landowners engage

      When Scottish Government determined that landowners needed to be much more cognisant of community interests when they were taking decisions relating to land, and furthermore that they should engage constructively with these communities before any decisions were made, the common perception was that this was targeted solely at the owners of large rural estates. Not so. Although more complex to determine who owns what land in urban Scotland, the same principle applies. Scottish Land Commission is seeking case studies, reflecting good or bad practice, of how substantial urban landowners engage with their communities.

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    • Space for reflection

      Back in the day when social enterprise was new and folk were uneasy about business practices infiltrating the rarefied world of charities and voluntary organisations, there was more of a willingness to debate and discuss how best to proceed. And for a while, progress was steady but cautious – resulting in useful outcomes such as the Code.  But for whatever reason those debates have dried up. The current direction of travel seems fixed and is rarely challenged. Perhaps we need to re-establish that safe space for honest reflection? Until then the occasional thoughtful blogpost will have to suffice.

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    • Volunteers of the future

      People volunteer for all manner of reasons and roughly half of the population do so at some point in their lives. While that might seem like a lot of people, equally it means there’s a lot of people choosing not to participate. Dig a little deeper into the numbers and it becomes apparent that around a fifth of those who volunteer do two thirds of all the volunteering work. Dig some more and you hit the problem of an aging population with its potential impact on volunteer numbers going forward. So it’s timely that Scottish Government has developed this framework.

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