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17th Feb 2021

Those who routinely engage in community politics may have cringed as the power struggles within Handforth Parish Council went viral. Our nearest equivalence to England’s parish councils (albeit with even less power) were established in 1975. Having just abolished the last remaining tier of local government that could remotely lay claim to being ‘local’, community councils were conceived of as a makeweight in the drift towards ever more centralised government. With virtually no authority and even fewer resources, it is a curious thing that so many people remain committed to Scotland’s 1,200+ community councils – despite being viewed with barely concealed disdain by governments of every hue over the past 45 years. During the debates about what should or shouldn’t be squeezed into the 2015 community empowerment legislation, one of the early decisions was to leave community councils well alone. Having to choose between meaningful reform or scrapping them completely was considered to be above its pay grade. So now to the Local Governance Review, still being promoted by Communities Minister, Aileen Campbell MSP, as the potential gamechanger for local democracy and as such, presumably, community councils as well. After 45 years, isn’t it time we finally grasped this nettle?

In the most recent briefing…

  • On the ground

    Community streaming

    It was an idea first conceived in New Zealand to provide film lovers with a means of supporting their favourite local cinema during lockdown. As an alternative to the streaming services of Netflix et al, the community cinema movement has bravely entered the marketplace with their own streaming offering. Aberfeldy’s community run Birks Cinema, with support from Scottish Government’s recovery funding for independent cinema, are set to launch the Birks Streaming Service – a professionally curated programme of films direct to your home. A cinematic first for Scotland. 

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  • On the ground

    Mental health marketplace

    Much has been made of the likely long term impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the country but less so about how to respond. And for good reason. No one really knows what to do. The NHS funded mental health services were under severe pressure before the pandemic hit so it is unlikely they will be in a position to respond at scale. Senscot is piloting an idea aimed at matching up social enterprise providers with anchor organisations seeking to access mental health services for their communities. A simple idea that seems to be working.

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  • On the ground

    Zoom poetry

    One zoom meeting is pretty much like any other so I thought I’d share a minor innovation I encountered recently. Asked for a 1-3 word reflection about the issue we’d been discussing, we were to write in the chat box but not press send until everyone was ready. On the count of three, an avalanche of reflections flew past. One woman, in what sounded like a Polish accent, mused that it read like a crowd-sourced poem. No surprise then to discover that she is a bit of a language expert herself.  Which must help working in Scotland’s most language-diverse community.

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  • On the ground

    Statistical offer

    To some extent or other, and however much we try not to, we live and work within our own comfort zones. A while back, I stepped out of mine to meet with Scottish Government’s statistics and data analysts team, exploring how their world might connect more closely with the world of community. It took a while for us to understand each other but gradually some opportunities began to emerge. Unfortunately progress on this has stalled (temporarily) due to lockdown. In a similar vein, albeit unrelated, this offer of help dropped into my inbox. Worth a look at.  

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  • Policy talk

    In the public interest

    At this point in the parliamentary cycle, it’s time to speculate as to who is likely to win the forthcoming elections and what the new legislative programme might consist of.  Since 2003, land reform has been one of the more consistent legislative themes of the Scottish Parliament. A timely paper in this respect from the Scottish Land Commission which highlights three areas for legislative change. Perhaps most interesting, and potentially most contentious, is the question of a public interest test on land acquisitions. It appears that land reform is a journey that is some way from being over.

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  • Policy talk

    Nordic Gold

    Few would disagree that it is generally beneficial for the wellbeing of any society if the people in that society trust their leaders and each other. One imagines that all governments pay some heed to the extent to which they are trusted by the voter and perhaps more importantly, the extent to which social trust runs across society. In 2017, the Nordic countries jointly published a report  – Nordic Gold – which highlighted the prevalence of social trust across Nordic countries and its contribution to quality of life, health care, low corruption, economic growth and good governance. Lessons to learn for us all.

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  • Policy talk

    No room to wriggle

    Any wriggle room has, by common consent of the climate scientists, finally disappeared if we are to meet the existential challenges facing us. Which is why National Planning Framework 4 is as important, perhaps more so, than the many other consultations doing the rounds which relate to Scotland’s response to the climate emergency. NPF4 sets the big picture. It should be a statement of where this country is heading. But reading the position statement it feels like it’s trying to be all things to all people rather than highlighting the really tough decisions that will need to be taken. 

     

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  • Policy talk

    Where does the power lie

    As a country we’re as guilty as the next in being dazzled by wealth and power – even though it can often be illusory and a source of regret further down the line. Think Trump and his golf courses. But in theory, our systems of planning, regulation and environmental protection are generally thought to be transparent, fair and democratically accountable to the will of the people. However, it seems that around the shores of Loch Lomond different rules apply. The interests of big business and powerful individuals hold sway in the face of massive and sustained local opposition.

     

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Featured anchor organisation:

Blantyre Miners Welfare Charitable Society

After 90 years of working for the community, Blantyre Miners Welfare Charitable Society’s latest challenge is to turn its recently completed, state-of-the-art Community Resource Centre into a successful, sustainable and income-generating enterprise; one that can continue to support its wide range of community activities.

Find out more