When I was a community worker in Wester Hailes in the early 80’s, support from local authorities for what we now call community empowerment was virtually non-existent. The idea of communities doing things for themselves, of finding their own solutions, was deeply counter culture and our efforts were routinely obstructed. Although it felt pretty attritional, at least you knew where you stood. In that relatively hostile environment, for a community to challenge their local authority on the issues that mattered to them, without fear of the consequences, was considered a measure of some success. Fast forward forty years, and the narrative surrounding those same rules of engagement has been transformed. Communities are deluged with a steady stream of invitations and incentives to engage with and become part of a much more enlightened and co-produced world. The work may feel much less confrontational than it once did, but I often wonder whether communities feel any more in control? And perhaps just as importantly, do we as a sector still feel able to call out those in authority when it matters? Or are we frit? At the very least, just occasionally, shouldn’t we ask ourselves those questions? Even if we don’t like the answers.
In the most recent briefing…
Working in Wester Hailes (see above) was a formative time for me. Another person who worked there at the same time was Laurence Demarco – subsequently the founder of Senscot and for many years a key influence in the development of Scotland’s community and social enterprise sector. Back in 2007, he spoke at the annual conference of Glasgow’s Volunteer Centre. His reflections on the power dynamics between the state and the citizen, the nature of local democracy and the value of asset ownership by communities resonate as much today as they did 14 years ago. Has anything really changed?
As the country slowly opens up again, many communities may be thinking that they can start to pick up the threads of ideas for new ventures that have been on hold since lockdown. One of the most effective ways to inspire new ideas is to visit somewhere where something of interest is happening. The Community Learning Exchange has long been a source of creativity and the mutual exchange of knowledge and has been enjoyed by hundreds of community groups. Today it is being relaunched to support Scotland’s Covid recovery. Both virtual and face to face learning exchanges are being supported.
The multiple threats posed by climate change have shot up the nation’s agenda to the extent that no one can realistically claim complete ignorance anymore. However, the science is complicated and the language used by the ‘climate movement’ can at times seem impenetrable and not particularly inclusive. And yet the only way we are going to be able to fix this emergency is if we all feel we can play a part. A new campaign was launched this week specifically designed to make it as easy as possible to participate – you can join Climate Scotland right now.
Anyone who has attempted to ‘engage’ with the planning system will be familiar with the flimsy forms tucked into plastic folders tied to lamposts. To find out more, the more persistent amongst us, might log on to a Council’s online planning portal and sift through the formal documentation. What becomes immediately apparent is that this system was never designed to encourage the active interest of citizens. Terry Farrell, architect and long term campaigner for the public to have more say in how their cities are built, has a plan. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
If Scotland is going to get close to achieving its ambitions to become a Net Zero Nation the Scottish Government will have to embrace and follow through on some fairly radical ideas rather than set itself ‘world leading targets’ only to fall short on implementation. There seems to be consensus that the country needs to dramatically increase the number of trees. However there’s less consensus around how to achieve it. Interesting new report out this month which proposes a radical pathway for Scotland to become a Woodland Nation. Predictable responses from the naysayers.
When the Scottish Parliament was considering amendments to the 2019 Planning Bill, there was the (optimistic) hope that an equal right of appeal for communities might be included. Predictably, the development lobbyists had worked hard, and the planning system emerged unscathed and as skewed as ever in favour of the developer. Instead of offering a right to appeal to beleaguered communities, a new device has been proposed – Local Place Plans. A Scottish Government consultation ends 25th June. Planning Democracy, who argued long and hard for the 3rd party right of appeal, have made a submission.
In the previous edition of Local People Leading, an article was featured which highlighted successful responses to the pandemic, mainly in the global south, that have been characterised by bottom up, community led strategies. In response, CoDeL got in touch to point to similar conclusions being drawn from research across the Northern Periphery and Arctic. What are often seen as the challenges of living in remote rural and island communities have in fact become key factors in contributing to the levels of resilience. The research points to the need to rethink what we mean by peripherality.
The volume housebuilders generally get a pretty bad press – often poor quality construction and design, inflated prices and vast profits – and yet they seem to be the only show in town when it comes to resolving our housing crisis. Last week, a packed public meeting (if there can be such a thing on Zoom) organised by Planning Democracy gave a platform to the academic Bob Colenott who explained how and why the volume housebuilder has been able to capture the housing market. There are however alternative models and PD are planning a campaign to promote them.
The Foundation was established in 1997 and with the help of many supporters bought out the remains of the Knoydart estate in 1999.Since then it has created significant assets for the whole community and we have 11 properties which are rented out at affordable rents, support community development, operate a ranger service and provide support for tourists and visitors, run a hydro-electric scheme (no grid connection here) and other services, run a bunkhouse, operate a small shop, have a venison butchery business, lease land and buildings, and manage the wild deer herd. With the support of its trading subsidiaries, The…Find out more