When David Bowie released his eponymous Ziggy Stardust album in 1972, it was the first time I’d really listened to the lyrics of a song. Until that moment, music had meant little more than the weekly tune-in to Top of the Pops and whatever we jogged along to at the youth club disco. But his song, foretelling of some (unexplained) apocalyptic end of the world, disturbed my thirteen year old self to its core. And for the past week it has been my ear worm, activated by the headline news that we have twelve years to save the planet, that’s all we’ve got. The world’s climate scientists are absolutely as one on this, but the public response, particularly from governments around the world, has been inexplicably muted. While the science might be hard to digest, the message is pretty stark – if we keep going as we are, we’re finished. We hear from and many others of how communities all over the country are already working towards a low carbon future. And now we need to see brave and decisive action from our politicians. We’ve got twelve years, that’s all we’ve got. But are they up for it?
In the most recent briefing…
Oban is a popular destination for thousands of tourists each year and many take advantage of the facilities in the Atlantis Leisure Centre – an award winning, community run facility for the past 25 years. Over the years, health promotion has become something of an obsession for this town – Healthy Options has developed into one of the country’s foremost community health services (albeit the local NHS has still to recognise its true financial value). No surprise then that Oban is seeking to become Scotland’s first Health Town.
It goes without saying that Scotland’s relationship with land is both complicated and historic. Fundamental questions around ownership and how Scotland’s land should be used, sit at the heart of the land reform debate and are still far from being resolved. One of the biggest stakeholders in these debates are those institutions charged with a responsibility to conserve and protect our landscapes. Scotland’s community land movement has long suspected that these institutions are somewhat adrift from the much more community focused policy environment that has evolved in recent years. Interesting new report suggests that these suspicions are well founded.
Although the window of opportunity has more or less closed for communities to develop their own renewable energy projects (thereby acquiring a long term and substantial income stream), there can be no doubt that the expansion of privately owned renewable energy projects has produced a massive compensatory windfall for neighbouring communities. Last year alone, an estimated £16m was distributed through a variety of community benefit funds. While no doubt a boon for these communities, there is a legitimate concern about equity across the country and whether these windfall payments are ever taken into account by other funders.
The red squirrel may not have the status of national icon but it has certainly become a rare enough species to get excited about if you happen upon one. Many people, certainly urban dwellers, may go their whole lives without seeing one. So, it’s not difficult to imagine the level of upset in the community of Strathnairn, just south of Inverness, when they discovered that three of their red squirrel population had been killed by passing cars. After road signs asking motorists to be more squirrel-aware had no effect, a more creative approach to squirrel road safety was called for.
One of the provisions in the recent land reform legislation which may yet prove one of the most significant, is the duty it places on landowners to involve local people in decisions that will have an impact on how land is used or owned in the future. With Scottish Government guidance now published, it is clear what this engagement should look like. You’d think if you were the largest landowner in the UK, you might aim to be an exemplar of good practice. Quite the opposite if recent events in Dumfries and Galloway are anything to go by.
Most people would agree that the biggest threat to the planet is our addiction to (unsustainable) economic growth. Many have argued that a highly successful alternative model of economic activity already exists – the cooperative. The Young Foundation has looked closely at the Mondragon Corporation, the largest cooperative in the world, and has concluded that the impact of Mondragon is largely because of the values that are embedded at its core. The cooperative model has been around for hundreds of years, but it remains very much on the margins of our economy. Time for a rethink?
Scotland is mostly rural but mainly urban. Therein lies the conundrum for policy makers that usually leaves folk who live in rural Scotland feeling that they miss out in a variety of ways. And that’s one of the reasons that Scottish Government lent support to the establishment of the Scottish Rural Parliament – a bi-annual gathering for rural activists to meet with policy makers, politicians and decision makers to share their ideas and experiences and resolve some of these tensions. Next month the Rural Parliament rolls into Stranraer. Programme shaping up nicely.
Barely a day passes without some news story that primary healthcare services are in crisis – usually linked to a chronic shortage of GPs. Running in parallel are equally depressing tales of community health projects going under for want of (relatively) small sums of money. And squeezed in between these pressures are the hapless NHS managers who control the budgets, say they are desperate to invest in more preventative work, upstream from the GPs, but never quite get round to achieving it. Embedding the concept of social prescribing into the heart of system would be good place to start.