I’m a slow reader, forever dipping in and out of books, and for months the voluminous biography of Margaret Thatcher has been my guilty secret without end. What I can’t fathom is how she inculcated her ideas so deeply in the national consciousness – to such an extent that today, 30 years on, many appear to have become immutable laws of nature. The privatisation of public utilities and services, and the marketisation of our public spaces and natural resources has become such an orthodoxy that any alternatives are routinely given short shrift. When oil was discovered in the North Sea, and the US oil barons came knocking, such was the warm welcome they received that only a tiny fraction of the extracted wealth ended up with the Treasury. Only the doughty Shetlanders had the savvy to negotiate a levy for every barrel of oil landed – creating their local version of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. The recent auction of seabed leases for offshore wind generated £700m for Scottish Government – a trifling sum compared to the enormous revenues these wind farms will eventually generate. By retaining a stake in their oil reserves, the Norwegians transformed their economy forever. Have we just sold ourselves short again?
In the most recent briefing…
When the Community Empowerment legislation was being drafted, a general presumption in favour of requests from communities to have an asset transferred was established. However, it was felt that for communities to have real confidence in the process, an appeals process to Scottish Ministers should also be included. But the whole point of an appeals process is that there must be some chance of winning and to date, not one appeal has been successful. A group from Brechin is the latest to fall foul of a system that is fast losing all credibility.
A loaf of bread in a supermarket can cost less than £1. Sadly, the levels of food poverty in this country mean that these products fly off the shelf and while they may stave off hunger pangs, they provide little in the way of nutrients. But bread is also something that people become passionate about – where the flour comes from, how it is milled and how to bake tasty, nutritious bread. A growing network of community organisations in Fife is working to tackle what they see as a broken food system for bread. Flour to the People kneads your dough!
The COP26 circus has already begun its long journey from Glasgow to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt where it will decamp later this year in the hope of achieving some of the climate breakthroughs that didn’t happen in Glasgow. Glasgow COP wasn’t entirely without its successes at the global level but perhaps it will be at the local level that its impact will be most enduring. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’s COP team worked with communities across Glasgow and beyond on a remarkable programme of work , the legacy of which should be felt for years to come.
Anyone with a passing interest in ‘community’ may be a little confused by the current revelation in policy circles that communities are in fact ‘places’, that communities are complex and multifaceted ‘places’, and that if we could harnessed their potential more effectively by adopting ‘place based approaches’ we’d all be in a much better place (no pun intended). A new website was launched last week to promote this whole concept of ‘Place’. In amongst a lot of what seems to be stating the bleeding obvious, there is the very well designed and useful Place Standard Tool.
Last Saturday, saw the official launch of the latest planning device for communities – Local Place Plans. Although the extent to which local place plans will actually change anything on the ground is yet to be established, the fact that they have some basis in law (Planning (Scotland) Act 2019) cannot be ignored. The aforementioned Place Standard Tool will be of assistance to any community wanting to create one. Although still relatively new, the Place Standard Tool is already evolving in response to the fast-changing environment that communities have to plan for. A climate lens is on its way.
While new research highlights very few people have any inkling what Levelling Up actually means, it hasn’t stopped both right and left wing commentators trying to second guess the Government and place their own interpretation on it. And just as David Cameron’s Big Society was perceived by many as a smokescreen to disguise the introduction of a decade of austerity, similar but different arguments are being made for a fundamental shift towards localism and decentralisation of power as the way to ‘level up’ the country. Superficially attractive but as we’ve learned before, we should be wary of the messenger.
The loss of large-scale manufacturing jobs in West Kilbride resulted in above average unemployment. The high street lost many traditional retail outlets replaced by empty and unkempt shops. West Kilbride began to suffer from vandalism, a poor image and a lack of services. The West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd Craft and Design Town Project (WKCIL) drove the strategy of a craft and design town to regenerate the town and create a vibrant, dynamic and financially sustainable community. Community involvement during the planning and development process has not only resulted in physical regeneration, but also a sense of community pride. The…Find out more