Just ignore the camera, they said. Easier said than done, I replied. And so it’s safe to assume that most of my recent contribution to a short film marking DTAS’ 20th anniversary will end up on the cutting room floor. But the interviewer was skilled and I eventually warmed to a conversation that occasionally strayed off-piste – reflecting at one point on the persistent inability of Scotland’s civil society to organise itself around a common cause. In 2008, appalled by the behaviour of bankers during the financial crisis, an outrage compounded a year later by the MPs’ expenses scandal, many civil society voices – DTAS briefly among them – called for reforms. In the event, those voices lacked the necessary cohesion and their reforming zeal waned. More recently, and echoing many of the same fundamental concerns, civil society is once again coalescing, this time under the flag of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. An open letter urges our new First Minister to cut the rhetoric and start delivering on his promise of a wellbeing economy. If he does, and eventually he surely must, it will have profound implications for every sector, including our own. Some say it could make or break us. Time will tell.
In the most recent briefing…
It’s holiday season and as thousands fly off to foreign climes, many will have considered alternative, low carbon modes of transport. But when it comes to cost, the budget airlines still hold sway by a considerable margin. There are of course countless organisations offering flyers the chance to offset their carbon emissions to ease their conscience but most seem a little spurious, requiring an act of faith to believe that the impact of a flight has been genuinely negated. Great to see an imaginative community led alternative to the carbon offsetting industry from the ever enterprising Glasgow Eco Trust.
Skye is world renowned for its outstanding natural beauty but many islanders believe that is being threatened by a rash of proposals for new wind farms across the island. The two existing wind farms are due to be repowered with pylons twice their current height and there’s a sense that the community are missing out on opportunities – both to extract more community benefit and to have more say over what comes next. As a first step, and on the basis that information is power, Skye Wind has been launched. This could be a template for communities elsewhere.
Mention the word ferry and thoughts immediately turn to CalMac’s ageing fleet, cancelled sailings and the damage that has been inflicted on island economies and, in the main, most of this ferry attention has focused on the Hebridean islands. But ageing fleets also bedevil services in the Northern Isles too, with seven of the eleven ferries operating between Shetland’s islands more than 30 years old. And it is Shetland’s communities that are taking the lead and seeking a solution. With £100k already raised to assess the feasibility of digging tunnels between islands, this is clearly a serious proposition.
An optimist might be forgiven for thinking that the Scottish Government currently has at its disposal a potent mix of policy and legislative opportunities with which to make a decent fist of tackling all the big social, economic and environmental challenges that face us. But the naysayers and apologists for the status quo are a powerful force. Peter Peacock, himself a former Government Minister, understands better than most the pressures that the new Land Reform Cab Sec will be under not to pursue anything too radical in the forthcoming Bill. In this paper, he sets out precisely why she should.
Lankelly Chase is a funder that I’ve always had a soft spot for. In the early years of DTAS, they provided small grants to communities, in this case development trusts, to test out their enterprising ideas. With a minimum of fuss to apply, and with a clear expectation that some would inevitably go bottom up, it was a pleasure to work with them. An openness and reflectiveness within the culture of the organisation explains to some extent their recent decision to cease being a funder altogether. Lankelly has concluded that ‘traditional philanthropy is a function of colonial capitalism’. Wow.
One might hope that if our economy eventually shifts from being GDP obsessed and becomes more focused on wellbeing, the Universal Basic Income, in some shape or other, would find a home. Critics of the concept always claim it is unaffordable and argue that it undermines the very nature of work. But these arguments have never addressed the impact of AI on the labour market nor do they consider the actual savings (as opposed to costs) that a basic income would generate. Revealing research from the NIHR that conceptualises universal basic income as a public health measure.
Birse covers over 125sq. km on Deeside in the north-east of Scotland. The parish (district) has four main parts: the three scattered rural communities of Finzean, Ballogie and Birse and the largely uninhabited Forest of Birse, which covers over a quarter of the parish’s total area. The parish has around 330 households, with half of the population living in Finzean and half in Ballogie and Birse.Find out more