A current favourite in the lexicon of policy wonkery is wellbeing. Any economic thinker worth their salt now feels duty bound to name check the wellbeing economy. Benny Higgins, the go-to man of the moment, nearly pulled it off last week in his report for the Scottish Government on economic recovery. The report’s title – Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy – gave momentary cause for optimism but the scattered references to wellbeing in the report only served to highlight how Mr Higgins has fallen foul of an increasingly common affliction – lazy use of language. When arguing that his plan for ‘strong economic growth’ would ‘focus unequivocally on climate change, equality, fair work and diversity’, alarm bells began to ring. Strong economic growth, irrespective of how warmly prefixed by ‘inclusive’ or ‘sustainable’, is business as usual. Other than appropriating the language of wellbeing, the report made no attempt to conceptualise an economy that could serve our collective wellbeing and simultaneously enable the planet to flourish. One or two headline grabbing ideas, but nothing that came close to nudging the tiller, even a few degrees, from the course the economy was on before Covid struck. Back to the drawing board, Mr Higgins.
In the most recent briefing…
It isn’t a legal requirement for landowners to engage with local people on decisions about land but since the publication of guidance by Scottish Land Commission, there’s been an expectation that most landowners would comply. And while many landowners have welcomed the new protocols on community engagement, clearly some have not. A fairly shocking example of blatant disregard of the guidance has just occurred on a Stirlingshire estate. Equally shocking is the local planning authorities apparent enthusiasm to grant retrospective permissions. All of which strengthens the call for more legislation. This letter from residents says it all.
If knowledge is power, it follows that the acquisition of knowledge leads, in some shape or form, to empowerment. Coastal communities face an added barrier to this form of empowerment because the marine environment is not only complex and difficult to understand, but much of it lies out of sight, beneath the surface. Which is why an innovative new project jointly conceived of by Scottish Natural Heritage (soon to be rebranded as NatureScot) and Coastal Communities Network offers local people the opportunity to survey their local seabed and coastline – with no need to get their feet wet.
The downside of so much attention being focused on the way that communities across the land have responded to the challenges of lockdown is that it might start to be taken for granted. And as the focus shifts from the initial emergency response to longer term issues of local recovery and resilience, there’s a need to try to learn lessons from this first phase so they inform the national approach going forward. SCA spoke with a group of community anchor organisations that have been to the fore of the emergency response phase. Some interesting observations.
When Community Planning Partnerships were first being set up, there was endless debate about how community interests might best be represented. At the heart of these debates, was the argument that the community’s representatives, however they were chosen, would eventually be co-opted by the real power brokers, and consequently lose touch with those they were supposed to represent. And many would argue that is precisely what happened. This dilemma of whether it is better to be in or outside the tent of where the real power lies, is one that never goes away. Important that we don’t ignore it.
Senscot was formed in 1999. Its founders – Laurence Demarco, Rodney Stares and Aidan Pia most prominent amongst them – believed a new voice should be heard within Scotland’s amorphous third sector. At first, the cause of social enterprise was resisted, both in government and from within the sector, but it’s now roundly championed (if not necessarily fully understood) by all. This week, ever the innovator, Senscot merges with Social Firms Scotland. Much of their work will continue through its grassroots network of SENs.. But some things will change. For instance, Laurence’s weekly words of wisdom (sic) are moving here.
Twenty years ago, someone at the Big Lottery Fund Scotland (as it used to be known) had the bright idea to create a stream of funding specifically targeting the creation of infrastructure for the community sector. Known as the Dynamic and Inclusive Communities Fund (DInC) many new intermediaries were given core funding for up to 5 years which resulted in much of the ecosystem of support we see today. Since those halcyon days, funding for infrastructure has virtually disappeared – often viewed as diverting scarce resources away from the frontline. This is a mistake, argues Ed Mayo.
The First Minister’s handling of the pandemic has attracted almost universal (albeit sometimes grudging) praise. But at some point soon, the focal point for the management and monitoring of ‘test and protect’ measures and the gradual reopening of the economy will have to shift towards a more local point of delivery. Which is why we need our local authorities to be equipped for the challenge. And judging by a recent report coming out of Highland Council, that may not be the case. Perhaps now’s the time to invest our councils with new revenue raising powers.
Although Government policy towards the community sector in England has often followed a similar path to Scotland (and vice versa), we are rarely so closely aligned as to justify engaging in joint UK wide initiatives. Which in many ways is unfortunate as there’s clearly lots of shared ground in terms of values and ambitions. A major new report has just been published by Locality, the sister organisation of DTAS, which only serves to confirm the experience of communities during the Covid crisis has been identical throughout the UK. Locality seems to be making a move.
Established in March 2008, MACC was formed by a group of people who shared the same passion and determination to see the airbase facilities used for the benefit of the Kintyre community. Coming from all walks of life, the group included the site’s former Works Service Manager, local business people and other members of the community. Embarking on one of the largest and most complicated community buyouts ever seen in Scotland, board members worked tirelessly to gain the support they needed. Four years down the line, MACC finally purchased the estate on May 11, 2012 from the Ministry of Defence…Find out more