Leaders from across civil society have called for the postponement of COP26 because so many delegates from countries most affected by climate change, mainly in the Global South, will be unable to attend the climate talks due to travel restrictions and the continuing vaccine inequity. Although these calls are certain to fall on deaf ears, the highly innovative Glasgow Dialogues – a series of conversations held between civil society leaders and government representatives from the Global South – have offered a rare platform for the voices of less powerful nations to be heard. Whether they are actually heard, to the extent that the richest nations agree to act against their own self interest, will be one of the acid tests for these talks. But institutional discrimination and the routine exclusion of minority interests from decision making is hardly the exclusive preserve of the climate debate. With colleagues from across the sector, I’ve recently been involved in some anti-racism training. And at this relatively late stage in my professional life, I’ve become acutely aware that much of our sector is lacking in any real diversity. We rarely seem to talk about this, let alone do anything about it. Perhaps it’s time that we did.
In the most recent briefing…
The Isle of Eigg has been written about extensively and is often held up as living proof of all that is possible if the ownership of land is passed to the people who live there. The Eigg community is also simultaneously derided for being ‘counterculture’ and for being – a criticism levelled at many community landowners – subsidy junkies. Notwithstanding the fact that tax breaks and farming and forestry grants received by private owners dwarf any public funds received by communities, this debate is about core beliefs and values rather than hard boiled economics. Whimsical piece on this from Maxwell MacLeod.
The ingenuity of the market to extract a profit from any situation never fails to amaze. Notwithstanding the fact that the relentless pursuit of profit is the root cause of the climate crisis, in the land market, investors are snapping up estates to take advantage of tax breaks and subsidies on tree planting or to off-set their carbon emissions. Hamish Trench at the Scottish Land Commission suggests that there may at least be some spin-off benefits for communities in the form of new community wealth funds – similar to the community benefit payments from renewable energy development.
There are some fields of endeavour where progress builds on past achievements. Medical science for instance. What was learned in the development of the Covid vaccine will forever be recorded in the annals of science and used in the future. It would be insane, and a shocking waste of resources if we didn’t. Reading a report from the Young Foundation commissioned to support the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda is like an excerpt from Groundhog Day. It’s as if we learn nothing each time we set about this challenge. Cue more insanity and a shocking waste of resources.
I remember the launch of the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) as being awash with comforting soundbites. A ‘mission impact development bank’ publicly funded ‘to build a stronger, fairer and more sustainable Scotland’ and ‘accountable to Ministers, not shareholders.’ With #NetZero the new must-have hashtag for literally everything, greenwash detectors should be switched onto a permanent state of high alert. SNIB’s recent announcement of a £50m ‘cornerstone’ investment into a private fund to attract wealthy investors into new forestry plantations sounds depressingly familiar. One wonders what £50m of taxpayer cash invested in community owned woodlands might have achieved.
Since 1840 average life expectancy has increased by approximately 3 months with each passing year. By the end of this century, it will be 100. It appears that the way we care for our elderly is about to get some serious attention and hopefully everyone, regardless of their wealth, will be able to look forward to their later years with more confidence. But as life expectancy grows, many believe that we need a more enlightened debate about what a good life, and its corollary – a good death – should look like. Giles Fraser writes well on this.
Last week saw the launch of Community Energy – The State of the Sector Report 2021 which saw Community Energy Scotland collaborating with its sister organisations in England and Wales to produce a comprehensive picture for the community energy sector across Britain. Energy policy is largely a reserved matter and levels of enthusiasm from Westminster for community ownership of energy generation has cooled in recent years with the removal of subsidy regimes and other support .Before it becomes a long forgotten memory, those in charge of our energy policy might take a look at what’s happening in Spain.
Sometimes it feels like we cling to the Christie Commission’s report like a drowning man in a storm in which there’s no hope or expectation of rescue. If we let go, we drown. If we don’t let go, the end will just come about just as surely but more slowly, as we gradually lose the will to hang on. For those in charge of our public services it has become a comfort blanket to wrap around the old ways of working. But when the Auditor General for Scotland weighs in, surely someone in the public service edifice is listening.
When in 2003 Newlands Primary School was threatened with closure, a parents group worked to convince the Council to save the school. The group was also concerned for the wellbeing of their rural community: isolation, distance from facilities and services, and a lack of employment opportunities, all impact significantly on the quality of life there. In 2007 the Trust was formed to develop a stronger sense of community and to improve general wellbeing in the area. Funding was secured from The Big Lottery and the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) to build a community centre adjacent to the local primary…Find out more