Many years ago I trained, but never worked, as a social worker. I’d concluded early on that a resourceful, connected community probably stood a better chance of addressing society’s ills than any social worker-client relationship that I could forge further down the line. Nonetheless, I’ve always been intrigued by what makes us who we are – how much is hardwired and how much is mutable? One theory I recall from all that training argued that a lot of what shapes our core values and beliefs is transmitted unconsciously down through the generations – the pain we experience today is, in part, the pain of our forefathers. I often reflect on this, particularly when encountering people who hold views that I simply don’t understand. At the recent annual gathering of Scotland’s private landowners, deeply held convictions were expressed from the floor (and widely affirmed around the hall) that it is somehow in all our mutual interest that so much of Scotland’s land continues to be owned by so few. Was this certitude, I wondered, the unconscious expression of an overweening sense of entitlement that has been passed down through the generations or something altogether more conspicuously avaricious? Either way, it wasn’t a good look.
In the most recent briefing…
Including our islands, Scotland’s coastline measures a whopping 11,602 miles and that constitutes a very large target for the mountains of marine pollution to wash up onto. Beach clean ups are nothing new and for years, island groups have been feeling like King Canute – no matter how much they pick from their coastlines it just keeps coming. Scottish Islands Federation have been working with Marine Scotland and others to tackle this ever growing problem. Research by them indicates that the fishing and aquaculture industries are responsible for ⅔ of all the pollution. Does the polluter ever pay?
One of Scotland’s newest community networks – Coastal Communities Network – who specialise in the conservation and restoration of our marine habitats came together last weekend in the very beautiful setting of Gartmore House. The levels of enthusiasm, expertise and commitment to support one another were nothing short of inspiring and with many thousands of miles of coastline to protect, the potential of this network is boundless. With the recent stooshie over the HPMA (Highly Protected Marine Areas) not yet resolved, one of CCN’s most prominent members, Arran COAST has some words of wisdom to offer.
Since 2003, we’ve witnessed a steady stream of land reform legislation but many question whether it has progressed as far or as quickly as it might have. The process surrounding the Community Right to Buy is cumbersome and even when a community is able invoke the Crofting Community Right to Buy which can force a landowner to sell, there have been many instances where the process drags out interminably. The community of Great Bernera have been waiting a decade for their absentee laird, Cyran de la Lanne-Mirrlees, who is based in Germany, to engage with them. Something has to change
As has often been implied here, if our planning system is the yardstick for measuring the health of Scotland’s functioning local democracy, it’s been on life support for longer than anyone can remember. An uneven playing field, stacked in favour of the development industry, the situation is so dysfunctional that it’s impossible to make a coherent argument for the status quo. And yet somehow the Scottish Government remains resolute. City of Edinburgh Council have just approved a motion to lobby Ministers in support of a community right of appeal being introduced. Surely it’s only a matter of time.
‘If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied’. So said Alfred Nobel of the Nobel Prize fame. With the challenges facing Scotland today the need for some seriously good thinking has never been greater and so the recent launch of what is described as a non-partisan Scottish think tank has to be welcomed. Future Economy Scotland seem to be coming out of the community wealth building/new economics corner and have set their sights on decarbonising, democratising and decommodifying the economy. Definitely worth a follow.
The prospect of the UK Government following the lead of a small Central American country in respect of how it has managed to restore its natural assets is vanishingly small. A combination of hubris and an obsession with market driven solutions would surely blind them to the example that Costa Rica has to offer. But a combination of political leadership, creativity and fiscal dexterity could easily be a model that Scotland might follow. A similar size of country to Scotland, Costa Rica has affected the greatest ecological turnaround the world has ever seen.
The Stove Network brings together people who believe in the value of arts and culture and want to be involved in or support making creativity part of the place they live. Its membership consists of a diverse group of artists and other active citizens, including café-owners, wild food chefs, video artists, DJs, local businesses and retirees. The Stove has run a number of very successful projects with high levels of community engagement. It’s the only artist-led Community Development Trust in the UK and in 2016, was awarded the Scottish Regeneration Award for Creativity in Regeneration. One of the Stove’s most…Find out more