It’s rarely a good look when politicians try to cosy up to sporting success – most recently the Prime Minister pulling an English top over his shirt and tie, and then bedecking 10 Downing Street with English flags. Intended to show politics was in tune with the mood of the nation, both stunts came across as clumsy attempts to appropriate a ‘moment’ that rightfully belonged to the people. For some reason, politicians nowadays feel obliged to be conspicuously ‘present’ and grandstand at the centre of everything. Not only must that be exhausting, it just serves to reinforce that all pervasive top-down mindset. It’s why we still hear some well-intentioned politicians talk about how they empower communities (whisper it – communities do that for themselves). And this particular form of egocentricity isn’t restricted to politicians. In my local park, I came across a poster seeking volunteers for a litter pick. All well and good, except this perfectly worthwhile venture had been wholly appropriated by a national funder slapping its logo all over it. If funders – including Scottish Government – really want to encourage community action, they should resist that urge to claim credit for it. Just step aside and let a thousand flowers bloom.
In the most recent briefing…
Last weekend, under a very hot sun, I noticed a park bench had been placed on the pavement near the front door of my local supermarket. Long enough for two strangers without invading each other’s personal space. A young man sat at one end and I decided to sit and watch the world go by from the other end. Something about sitting on the bench made it easy to spark up a conversation. A connection was made – we agreed that people seem happier in sunny weather – before moving on. It reminded me of the Manifesto for the Good Bench
As the country emerges from the pandemic and starts to address the task of reimagining and rebuilding those foundational services that have been under so much pressure for the past year, it’s not yet clear how much of an appetite there is for big and bold new ideas. A plethora of reports and recommendations have been published which argue that, for a multiplicity of reasons, this is the moment to act. A paper from Common Weal proposing that the much mooted National Care Service should be designed around a national network of community hubs. It’s a bold idea.
Why do some places work better as places than others? Despite all the research, it seems there’s no set formula for success. How well each place works is the result of a rich and complex alchemy of factors. And to further complicate things the same factors may succeed in one place but fail in another. So, nothing is certain but some things are beginning to become clearer. Firstly, anyone and everyone in a place can make a difference. And secondly, there is a growing body of good practice to draw on. All now available in this shiny new TownToolKit.
The rapid expansion of community asset acquisitions in recent years might suggest to the casual observer that the whole process has become relatively straightforward and pain free. But closer inspection of the relatively brief history of community asset ownership reveals a different story. While there are some recognisable steps that all communities should consider, each acquisition presents its own unique set of challenges. None more so than the 400 year old Crook Inn in the Scottish Borders. Since 2006, the community has been trying to bring this vital community hub back to life under local ownership.
For some time now, artificial intelligence (AI) has been a significant part of our day to day lives. We might not understand it but we can be certain that the pace of its advance is quickening. Last week I encountered the Scottish AI Alliance which has been formed to ensure Scotland becomes ‘a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI.’ It was an intriguing conversation about how civil society might be able to engage with the AI Alliance. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this article appeared in my inbox the next day.
As we discover more about why some landowners allow their assets to fall into disrepair, what we learn may help to shape what goes into the next round of land reform legislation. DTAS’ Karlene Doherty has been helping a number of communities faced with abandoned sites to consider what the regeneration opportunities for those sites might be and blogs about it here. However, as women’s mental health specialist charity, Saheliya, discovered after they had injected new life into a semi-derelict building owned by Tesco, the landowner still holds all the cards.
Before lockdown, my office was in the basement of a building in Edinburgh’s West End. Opposite, in a similar sized building, was the Scotland Office – a modest base for Westminster’s representative in Scotland. How things have changed. A shiny new building next to Waverley station, Queen Elizabeth House will bring together 3000 civil servants from 11 UK Government Departments. It seems like a very clear statement of intent – as does the recent launch of new ‘levelling up’ funds for local authorities and communities. New money is always welcome but how joined up is it with Scottish Government’s funding?
When former Bank of England governor Mark Carney declares that even he has lost faith in the markets to tackle the climate emergency, calling for much stricter regulation of businesses, we can assume our economic system is no longer fit for purpose. Economist Anne Pettifor was one of few to predict the crash in 2007 and has consistently argued for an economy that serves society rather than the other way around. I don’t understood macroeconomics but this examination of Pettifor’s ideas about the kind of economy we need if we are to survive and thrive makes a lot of sense.
A former regeneration area, with strong industrial links, Greater Maryhill has seen a renaissance in recent years. However the community still has a poor health record, and suffers from youth gang territorialism. A diverse community, with many cultures living alongside each other, Maryhill still has the spirit of “old” Glasgow and the friendly community feel within the City Centre. Community Central Hall was built in the early 1920’s and when the building came up for sale in the early 1970’s, an action group was formed to prevent the building being sold for private development. Over the past 35 years CCH…Find out more