‘You are welcome here. This is your home. It is as much your home as it is my home.’ These words have become an article of faith for our First Minister ever since the spectre of uncertainty began to loom large for anyone living in Scotland without a UK passport. It must be deeply disturbing to discover that you may become unwelcome in the place where you have settled and consider your home. Notwithstanding the levels of casual prejudice and discrimination that many encounter in their daily lives, to learn that the State has somehow turned against you as well is nigh on unimaginable – almost dystopian. The extent to which the FM’s message of reassurance genuinely resonates with those who are most affected was plain to see when these same words were read out at the beginning of a remarkable event that I was privileged to attend last Saturday. Organised by BEMIS as part of Celtic Connections in the community, a packed Tramway theatre was treated to a musical celebration of Glasgow’s incredibly rich cultural diversity, drawn from communities across the City. The whole occasion was both heartwarming and life-affirming – a bulwark against whatever Brexit brings.
In the most recent briefing…
A couple of packed public meetings held in Edinburgh in recent weeks at which much frustration and fury has been vented at the way the City appears to have been ‘sold off’ to the free marketeers of the tourism and events industry and, in particular, the property-letting global juggernaut, Airbnb. A grassroots protest has evolved into PLACE, a networked group of citizens systematically challenging the explosion of unregulated short term lets. They’ve now been joined by Andy Wightman MSP and the campaign Homes First. A mapping survey has been launched to identify Airbnb hotspots.
For many people, and particularly communities along its length, the North Coast 500 has been a double-edged sword. For some time now, the route has featured in most self respecting travel writing bucket lists with the result that this hitherto hidden gem of a road trip is now regularly log-jammed with motorhomes and drivers unfamiliar with passing-place protocol. But visitors bring much needed spending power and some of these remote communities have succeeded in tapping it. Scottish Land Commission has produced a map highlighting where this has happened in the hope that others will follow suit.
With the changes to Scottish Planning Policy that were introduced a couple of years ago, the dreams of many people to construct a simple, low impact hut somewhere out in the woods, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, were made slightly easier to realise. There are however many other barriers in the way – not least access to land. The Thousand Huts campaign is convening a Hutters’ Rally in February at which this will be a core theme. One committed hutter explains why she has become so hooked on hutting.
When the concept of community-owned renewable energy first appeared, many thought that the days of grant dependency were over. The potential income of these schemes was eye-watering. However, the reality has proved somewhat different and while some communities have had the capacity and the wind resource to make it happen, many haven’t. That said, those communities who just happened to be adjacent to private wind farm developments have been in receipt of some fairly hefty sums too – via community benefit payments. A new resource just published is designed to help communities manage their unexpected and new-found wealth.
I have a folder on my computer desktop entitled Reports to be read. It’s full of reports that I know I should read but also know in my heart that I never will. And then there are all the reports that I know I must read but struggle to get beyond the executive summary and the conclusions. Too much to read and not enough time is a common enough problem. A solution to this conundrum might be to change how we read. Interesting suggestions on this for overstretched local councillors from Local Govt Information Unit.
When news of the City Deals first appeared in the press, it was notable for two reasons. One was the sheer scale of the proposed spending and the other was the absence of any great brouhaha about the announcements – as if funds on this scale – £5.2 billion – were an everyday occurance. But the truth is this sort of additional funding is pretty rare and so one might expect that serious consideration would be given as to how to spend it. And that is precisely what appears not to have happened, at least according to a recent report from the Accounts Commission.
Commitments to bring superfast broadband connectivity to every home in the country are usually accompanied by caveats and clarifications such as when they say every home what they mean is 95% of homes by a date that is so far into the future as to be meaningless. With the result that the more remote communities continue to put up with speeds that the urban centres have long since forgotten about. Lots of false dawns, and this next one – shared spectrum – may be yet another. But the fact that it proposes a degree of community control offers a glimmer of hope.
The National Lottery Community Fund has prided itself on being a funder that listens – presumably to Scottish Government but also to the sector that it funds. Over the 25+ years of its existence, some parts of the country have stubbornly refused to engage with it and have therefore received less than their fair share of the funds. To compensate, 5 years ago, the Lottery became more proactive in these areas, setting up the Our Place initiative which specifically set aside funds for investing. This required a very different approach and research into its effectiveness has just been published.