As someone whose entire working life has been paid for by the public purse, I’ve long held a sneaking admiration for the private sector and in particular, its uncomplicated yardstick of success – profit. Running a business, particularly a small one, has often struck me as a kind of heroic endeavour – coping with the constant pressure of making ends meet and having responsibility for the livelihoods of others. And ever since the Chancellor placed the economy into hibernation, those stresses and strains have been stacking up. Important to remember though, that large swathes of the community and voluntary sector are facing those very same pressures. Over many years, the lines between the private and voluntary sectors have become increasingly blurred with public funding being rolled back, and communities encouraged to seek new forms of income through trading. And ironically, those that have travelled furthest down that road now find themselves most at risk. While Scottish Government reacted quickly to the immediate threat posed by lock down with significant levels of short term assistance, the long term future is riven with uncertainty. Whatever shape recovery takes, our sector is unlikely to be restored to its pre-Covid self. Difficult decisions are in the offing.
In the most recent briefing…
Whether it’s by accident or design is a matter of some debate, but the fact that Scotland has such a strong and diverse community sector has certainly enabled the country’s response to this crisis. Some might argue that if we had a genuinely ‘local’ level of local government the response would have been designed and delivered quite differently. But we are where we are with that one and until it is resolved, community groups of shapes and sizes continue to fill the gap. Local resilience seems to be a crucial factor. Great piece highlighting the contribution of community landowners.
In the previous briefing, I suggested we should listen to what children and young people have to say about their experiences of lockdown because without their voices being integral to the planning and design of the next phase, we’ll inevitably get it wrong. Children’s Parliament has been surveying children across the country to gain their insights during April and May. As this bewildering period for children is set to continue for some time yet, it’s more important than ever to keep the data coming in. You’re being asked to promote this survey for June to children everywhere.
When the Westminster Government threatened to repeal the Human Rights Act, Scottish Government commissioned work to draft proposals for a new human rights framework for Scotland that was simply aimed at improving people’s lives. The report, published in 2018 was described as the next step on Scotland’s human rights journey. That journey, as described in the last edition of this briefing, recently took a very local, albeit small step forward with the success action of a group of tenants in Leith. Another much bigger step, but still rooted in community, sees the launch of a new organisation – Making Rights Real.
Wherever your thoughts go to when considering the impact and long term implications of this pandemic, there are few places where the prospects seem anything but gloomy. The creative industries are a case in point. A precarious area of work at the best of times, one can only guess at the damage being wrought on this particular sector. But by the same token, perhaps its longstanding familiarity with such precarity combined with its innate creativity will be its salvation. David Greig, Artistic Director of Lyceum Theatre, highlights the paradox that theatre finds itself in.
We’ve all done it. Criticising from the touchline without suggesting practical answers. And with so many voices now calling for the post-pandemic recovery to be all things to all people, it’s easy to have some sympathy for those who are charged with the job of getting on and actually fixing it. Which is why it made a refreshing change to read the first of three papers to be published by Common Weal with concrete proposals for what should come next. How realistic these ideas are, others will judge. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of food for thought in this.
A tough job just got a lot tougher. The task of navigating our way to a low carbon economy was never going to be straightforward. Compounding the complexity is the challenge of doing it in such a way that would be considered fair and wouldn’t disproportionately and negatively affect the most disadvantaged sections of the community. The Just Transition Commission has had a call out for views which concludes at the end of June. But now this Just Transition has to take place in the context of a post-Covid era. Could it get any harder?
The quality of political leadership is already emerging as a key determinant of how effective countries have been in dealing with Covid. Regardless of views on the constitutional question, it seems the vast majority of Scots (67%) approve of how the First Minister is managing this crisis. And yet, although her style and tone differ starkly from that coming out of Westminster, as Gerry Hassan points out, it is essentially replicating the same centralising approach. While it may be expedient in the short term, he argues that this instinct must be resisted if local democracy is to survive.
If an economy isn’t growing, conventional wisdom tells us that it must be in recession – something to be reversed as quickly as possible. But what the science tells us is that if we pursue this path and offer the same opportunity to every other economy on the planet, we will inevitably face catastrophic climate and ecological breakdown. We know this to be a scientific fact but yet refuse to alter course. The explanation for this may lie in our apparent inability or unwillingness to imagine an economy that is based on ‘degrowth’.
Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust is based in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh. Our vision is that Edinburgh becomes a creative, participative city in which everyone is able to access the spaces and resources they require to pursue their own creativity, no matter who they are and what form it may take. Our mission is to provide affordable and appropriate spaces, resources, projects and opportunities for the residents of Edinburgh to be creative. Out of the Blue has established a reputation as an independent, dynamic and innovative cultural social enterprise. Out…Find out more