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1st May 2019

The most telling thing about the Extinction Rebellion protesters who glued themselves to the streets of London was not so much why they were doing it, but rather who was doing the gluing. These are not the battle-hardened, masked anarchists who gather at G8 summits – for many, this was their very first act of public protest. Driven by a sense of bewilderment and frustration at the continuing complacency of our political leaders on climate, this movement has real fire in its belly.  Hundreds of hitherto law-abiding citizens prepared to go to jail for their convictions – it feels like a throw-back to a bygone era. Or could it be that civic protest is rediscovering its mo-jo? Last week for instance, at a large gathering in central Edinburgh, a new and broad-based alliance of citizen-led groups from across the City were coalescing around shared concerns for the future of their city (see below).  Faced with popular protest, politicians have tough choices to make. They can choose to listen politely to these voices of dissent before ignoring them (Michael Gove – “Greta, we hear you”) but eventually they will suffer the consequences. Trouble is, on climate anyway, eventually could be too late.


In the most recent briefing…

    • Community Councils still going strong

      Do community councils have a future?  And if so, how should they be strengthened? These questions lie at the heart of a major new piece of research published last week. In some ways – given how long they have been under-powered and under-resourced – it’s a minor miracle that so many continue to function at all. Yet this research indicates that 67% of community councils are hungry for more powers and responsibilities. And 72% believe that community councils should have a formal seat on local councils. Interesting to know what the local councils think about that.

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    • Fish farms caught short

      I’m sure there must be some good news stories about salmon farming but I‘ve yet to come across one. This is much more typical of the reports that are coming out of this ever-expanding industry. So it’s not surprising that many coastal communities are on high alert when fish farm companies come calling with plans to establish new farms. When the Scottish Salmon Company invited locals to a consultation event about their plans for a new open-cage mega-sized salmon farm off Arran, 160 islanders turned up. And then promptly walked out. A lesson in how not to conduct a public consultation.

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    • The passing years

      Some would argue that social enterprise has been around ever since a group of weavers from Fenwick in East Ayrshire came together to form the world’s first cooperative. Others point to the community business movement that grew up in Strathclyde in the 1980’s as the forerunner of what have today. For the past twenty years or so, Senscot has planted the social enterprise flag on the policy landscape and many of these early pioneers are now reaching important milestone birthdays. One of Edinburgh’s most acclaimed social enterprises celebrates this week.

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    • Citizen power

      It’s an annual tradition for the Edinburgh Festival or the Fringe or both to declare that once again all box office records have been smashed – thereby reaffirming the City’s right to call itself the festival capital of the world. But this never-ending growth comes at quite a cost. The explosion of Airbnb properties disrupting communities, the ‘Disney-isation’ of Edinburgh’s Old Town threatening its Unesco World Heritage status and hotels on every corner.  While the Council can only see the upside, those who have to live amongst it have other ideas. And they are beginning to organise themselves.

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    • The power of the volunteer

      Just caught a BBC documentary called the Great Storm That Saved a City which provides fascinating insights not only into the storm itself but how it played its part in transforming Glasgow’s housing and in particular how it sowed the seeds of the city’s community controlled housing associations. These tenant-led organisations have consistently argued for their governance to be an unpaid, voluntary affair. While there is an argument from some quarters to have paid board members, this has been strongly resisted in the community-controlled sector. David Bookbinder, Director of GWSF sets out the argument for keeping it voluntary.

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    • Local response to national crisis

      Arran is often described as Scotland in miniature because on this one island, there’s considered to be an element of all that people love about Scotland. But when it comes to the issue of housing need, the island has become a magnification of a national malaise. With so many houses being bought as holiday homes or as somewhere to retire to, prices have skyrocketed, forcing local workers to move off the island to find accommodation. Now the local development trust has come up with a radical plan to build houses and allocate them according to ability to pay.

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    • Why is this even tolerated?

      Ten years after Greener Kirkcaldy began tackling disadvantage and inequality within their town, last week local people were celebrating the official opening of their new community hub. With purpose built premises, Greener Kirkcaldy can continue tackling food and fuel poverty in the town, but always with an eye to promoting Kirkcaldy as a greener and fairer place to live. These new premises also provides a home to the local independent food bank. Since the introduction of Universal Credit last year, demand on this food bank has increased 140%. Does anyone actually believe this new benefit system is working?

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    • Data is the new oil

      I spent most of last Friday at a Scottish Government event on Open Data and Data Literacy. Neither of which I know anything about which I think was partly the reason for me being there. Hosted by Scotland’s Chief Statistician and attended by several clever people who deal in data, what I took away is that a lot of this data could be useful to communities if only it was made more accessible. And Scottish Government is committed to making that happen. An Action Plan was published earlier this year. It’s worth a skim. Data is the new oil.

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