Anyone who spends much time in the company of civil servants will recognise the slightly odd convention whereby, regardless of how many are in the room, the one that does the talking is invariably the most senior one, with everyone else neither speaking nor being spoken to. It’s just one of many civil service mores that both sets them apart from the hoi polloi, and is presumably in the interests of smooth and efficient government. Which is fair enough – so long as there’s sufficient evidence of smooth and efficient government. But of late there have been signs that all is not as it should be. An open letter published recently by third sector leaders, pointing to the chronic mismanagement of funds supporting work with children and families is a real worry. What’s more, some of those concerns will mirror the experiences of many others who work across different parts of government. But despite appearances, civil servants are as human as the rest of us – stress-related sick leave has reportedly leapt by 38% in the past year – and so perhaps a new, much more reflective and inclusive approach, particularly with regards to how our sector is funded, is required. It’s good to talk.
In the most recent briefing…
One of the community voices I referred to in last week’s briefing was a quietly spoken man who’d travelled all the way from Papa Westray, one of the smallest islands of the Orkney archipelago, to describe how his small community has been campaigning against the development of what’s thought to be Scotland largest salmon farm. Ironically, Crown Estate Scotland and Orkney Islands Council have just announced a landmark arrangement which they claim will give communities a greater say in the use of the seabed around them. No point in having a greater say if no one is listening.
When the concept of social enterprise first knocked at the voluntary sector’s door, the initial response was to ‘man the barricades’ and ‘resist at all costs’ this notion of generating profit or monetising the good works of the charitable sector. Much of that early resistance to this perceived intrusion by private sector motivation has fallen away and a broad understanding of how profit can be made for social good has become codified. However, there remains a certain unease when talking about wealth and finance around the community sector. There’s a new concept that might easy this hesitancy – Democratic Finance.
There’s a small group of people whose job is to track the policy world. Many policy ideas never see the light of day but some find their way into party manifestos which may in time be included in a programme for government which should then become government policy or even legislation. And, in theory, all these policy ideas are intended to form part of a coherent whole and it’s at this point – the extent to which they can be understood as being interconnected – that most people lose the will to live. Great work by Nourish Scotland to save our sanity.
It’s no coincidence that the idea of measuring happiness as a national metric isn’t treated very seriously by countries where happiness is assessed to be in short supply. But for the past six years, one country – Finland – has topped the polls, and that in itself should merit an investigation into what makes the Finnish people so happy with their lives. And it seems, over and above all a number of other contributory factors, to be about the extent of income inequality. There’s an old Finnish proverb – happiness is a place between too little and too much.
In the days before Donald Dewar became Scotland’s first First Minister, he gave a speech in which he said, “There is undoubtedly a powerful symbolism – which attracts me greatly – of land reform being amongst the first actions of our new Scottish Parliament”. Not only was it the Scottish Parliament’s first significant piece of legislation, in the 20 years since, land reform has been the continuous policy thread that runs through successive programmes of government. Writing in the Stornoway Gazette, land reform commentator, Dr Calum MacLeod, shares his take on the land reform story with yet another chapter about to unfold.
You don’t need to have an active interest in Scottish politics to realise that something fairly seismic has been happening in recent weeks. Regardless of political stripe, these unfolding events have left the main protagonists slack-jawed and uncertain as to how to proceed. The political commentators have been having a field day, but in the main most of their content falls into the category of either attacking or defending long established positions. One contribution that has resonated with many and which tries to step back a little from all the heat, comes from Gerry Hassan in the Scottish Review.
In 2000 a group of local people came together to address the need for affordable housing in the Creetown area. This led to the setting up in 2004 of the Creetown Initiative to address local needs and the delivery of a range of regeneration projects to support the local economy including: environmental, renewables, sport and healthy living, community facilities, art and education. The Creetown Initiative Consultancy arm was created in 2006 when community groups elsewhere saw what was happening in Creetown and wanted assistance to carry out similar projects in their own area. The consultancy has now worked with other…Find out more