Twenty years ago this week, I set off on a road trip around some of Scotland’s far flung parts, clutching a list of places to visit and the names of people who were interested in forming a network of like-minded community organisations. The term ‘development trust’ wasn’t common currency back then but, as I discovered, communities had been self-organising along these lines long before I showed up. These were the first tentative steps of DTAS – purporting to be a member-led network (albeit with no members to speak of) and with little to offer beyond the prospect of becoming more connected with their peers. Despite all that, a simple invitation to help shape a new grassroots movement was all it took. And just as I was pushing at those open doors, other networks were beginning to take shape, nurturing more specialised community interests – health, energy, land ownership, transport and so on – and all based on the same principles of reciprocity. This collective willingness to share knowledge and expertise freely in pursuit of a common purpose is the thread that runs through all of them. Often beneath the radar, usually understated and always undervalued, their contribution to Scotland’s community wealth is nevertheless immeasurable.
In the most recent briefing…
Until recently, the debate around rewilding has tended to polarise opinion, forcing a choice between people and the restoration of nature. In part this polarity has been exacerbated by some landowners pursuing their rewilding ambitions to the exclusion of the communities that might want to live there. The Scottish Rewilding Alliance is aiming to strike a new balance in this debate that seems both sensible and, most importantly, achievable. One aspect of their work is to highlight the key role that communities have in restoring balance to the natural environment both on land, and, in this instance, at sea.
Revealing outburst from a prospective purchaser of Kinloch Castle on Rum, accusing Green Party MSP Lorna Slater of being an ‘anarchist minister’. The building has long been a headache (financially and strategically) for its current owners, NatureScot, who were keen to offload. But the multimillionaire’s plans never aligned with the interests of Rum’s small community nor apparently, were they ever shared directly with them. And so Ms Slater called the whole deal off. And what’s to become of Kinloch Castle? An idea to allow the castle to decay as a curated ruin is being considered.
The Chancellor’s recent budget made great play of measures to remove barriers to the labour markets – be that the cost of childcare, pension disincentives for the wealthiest 1% or changes to Universal Credit. It coincided with my first sight of Chatbox GPT and a demonstration of all that is coming our way faster than mere human intelligence can imagine. If nothing else, our conception of work is going to have to change. Which of course strengthens the case for a Universal Basic Income. Interesting piece arguing for a Participation Income and how it could help communities fight climate change.
Interesting open letter from Andrew Thin of Scottish Land Commission to Jeremy Leggat, the driving force behind Highland Rewilding which has described the recent purchase of Tayvallich estate as being the next best thing to community ownership. In amongst the praise for Highland Rewilding’s open and engaging approach, two big messages were contained – concerns at the continuing trend towards ever more concentrated patterns of ownership and the speculative financial models being applied. Land reform campaigner, Peter Peacock calls for much more transparency about the public subsidies being trousered by Scotland’s largest landowners.
For someone to take action to protect the natural environment from a risk of damage, it seems to require that person to act on behalf of the particular habitat and effectively to stand between the source of the threat and the threatened habitat. There is however a growing school of thought that the natural environment or at least parts of it should be accorded the status of a person in law. Countries from Ecuador to New Zealand have already granted legal rights to natural features such as mountains and rivers and similar moves are afoot in England.
At a meeting with Cab Sec Shona Robison MSP to share our thoughts on how the resilience of communities might be strengthened in the face of a future pandemic, the meeting focused on a paper we had written which pointed to the need for some fundamental changes to many of the core systems which communities have to work within – but above all these relate to our systems of local governance. We called for a clearer distinction between how rural and urban communities are supported. Interesting work just published on the particular challenges of experiencing poverty for rural dwellers
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