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17th July 2019

This may be a sign of advancing years, but I find myself increasingly drawn towards anything that smacks of local heritage. All the more so if it’s on my doorstep – and Leith isn’t short on history.  It’s also just dawned on me that where communities really embrace their local heritage and make a point of celebrating it, these communities often seem more self-assured and confident about their place.  Last weekend for instance, passing through the coastal village of Cockenzie, I happened upon the utterly brilliant Waggonway Museum which tells the story of the area’s early industrial heritage – including Scotland’s first recorded railway.  The museum team had laid on a special event as part of their local arts festival. The civic pride on display was palpable – every bit as tangible as the exhibits inside. This is the time of year when communities everywhere hang up the bunting, hold their gala parades and celebrate whatever heritage they have to share. These festivals are so important in reaffirming a community’s sense of itself and its place in history.  In many respects, these celebrations of local heritage are a barometer of community wellbeing – we take them for granted at our peril.

In the most recent briefing…

  • On the ground

    Where the greater good is served

    In the heritage and museum world (of which I have very little experience except as a visitor) there must be a lot of debate about how and where any heritage collection should be displayed. And the heat of those debates probably increases when the collection of pieces to be shown is considered of great national importance. An interesting reflection on this from an archaeologist from Dundee Uni on her work with a community in a remote region of Alaska. Her experience caused her to completely revise her ideas on where the ‘greater good’ is served.

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  • Tackling depopulation

    Without some kind of intervention, population levels across large swathes of rural Scotland are set to fall drastically in the coming years. That’s the inescapable conclusion of research published last year by the James Hutton Institute and backed up by projections from Highland Council. If communities in the most remote parts of the country are ever to be sustainable in the long term, it seems inevitable that more positive action from Government will be required. While Community Land Scotland’s policy director Calum MacLeod thinks the new Planning Bill might help, he is unequivocal about what really needs to happen.

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  • Allotments need to be planned

    Allotments seem to suffer from a problem of perception. Even in today’s policy climate in which food growing is increasingly prominent, and with the prospect of new legislation being brought forward to confirm Scotland as a Good Food Nation, the evidence suggests that most local authority planners still regard food growing simply as a leisure activity and as such fail to prioritise food growing when considering land use in local plans. While highlighting some notable exceptions in Aberdeenshire and East Lothian, SAGS have just published a nicely illustrated guide for the rest of the country’s planners.

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  • Lotto lunacy

    It’s 25 years since Mystic Meg first enticed the nation to part with its hard earned cash in the hope of winning the National Lottery jackpot (current chance of winning Lotto – 45,057,474 to 1). The early assurances that Lottery funds would only ever be used to add value to mainstream public funding – and never to replace it – has long since been forgotten. There are so many lottery schemes on the go today that it’s hard to keep up with. Now plans are being laid to launch a local authority lottery scheme. Is there no end to it?

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  • Community house builders

    The reason volume housebuilders aren’t able to respond to the housing crisis in rural Scotland is that their business model is to build houses in large numbers all in the same place. Which is why a different model is required – one that can respond to scattered housing demand and requires small numbers of houses to be built in lots of different places. If communities are to become the defacto housing developer, they’ll need plenty of specialist support to hold their hands throughout the complex and lengthy process.  But when that is done well, the results can be spectacular.

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  • Policy talk

    A festival of community ownership

    Not so very long ago, any reference to Scotland’s community land movement was a direct reference to the North West Highlands and Islands. But gradually that perception has shifted to the point where community land ownership has either become a reality or at least a realistic aspiration, for communities the length and breadth of the country. Next month sees the second Community Land Week – a programme of 45 events celebrating and exploring the diversity of Scotland’s community land movement.

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  • Mending society

    Not so long ago, when you purchased many different types of product, they would come with handy instructions on how to repair and extend a product’s life. Now they come as hermetically sealed units, unavailable replacement parts and with dire health and safety warnings on the dangers of tampering. But the tide is imperceptibly turning as we become more resistant to the throwaway culture. A really nice article about the restorative human qualities that emerge when repairing things becomes much more than just about extending the life of your kettle.

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