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31st March 2021

There’s been an end of term feel to things since Scottish Parliament shut up shop ahead of May’s elections. Some parliamentary loose ends tidied up, overdue plans published, funding agreements signed off, politically awkward news quietly released and even some hints about future policy directions depending on who’s in charge after May. And amidst all this comes the intriguing announcement of a new ‘strategic partnership’ between national and local government and the Third Sector. The Strengthening Collaboration Project has declared it will ‘boost collaboration by breaking down barriers’ and ‘make effective partnership the norm’. It’s only intriguing because we’ve been down this particular blind alley so many times before. How often have we witnessed the launch of highfalutin Concordats and Compacts, each claiming to usher in a new era of ‘genuine partnership with parity of esteem for all’, only to watch them flounder on the rocks of where the real power actually lies. But as this latest initiative appears to be inspired by the community-driven response to the pandemic, here’s a suggestion. Why not ask those self-same communities how ‘collaboration’ with them could be strengthened? We’d certainly get some very different answers but we might even learn something vaguely useful.

In the most recent briefing…

  • On the ground

    Democracy Matters back on track?

    If you were one of the 4,000 or so who took part in the Democracy Matters conversations back in 2018 which gauged the appetite amongst communities to have more control over local decision making, you could be forgiven for wondering what happened next. Short answer is nothing. To all intents and purposes the ‘conversation’ disappeared without trace and after a year when all hands have been to the Covid pump, many assumed Democracy Matters would be consigned to the history bin of ambitious but ultimately failed policy initiatives. But like a phoenix…

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  • On the ground

    Land ownership and climate

    There seems to have been a subtle but noticeable shift in Scottish Government thinking in relation to the contribution that communities can make in tackling the climate emergency. Until recently their contribution was seen through the lens of what could be achieved with project funding from the Climate Challenge Fund which, although of significant value, was generally short lived. The shift in thinking is that if Scotland has an embedded culture of empowered, resilient communities, the actions that are necessary to tackle climate change will become normalised. Actions such as those being taken by Scotland’s community landowners.

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  • On the ground

    Guerillas in Dalkeith

    With lock down about to ease and memories still lingering of the discarded litter and detritus in the aftermath of the mad dash to escape to the country or anywhere that wasn’t home, a Litter Summit was held earlier this month to consider Scotland’s longstanding and chronic litter problem. There are no easy answers but a prerequisite for change has to be a baseline level of civic pride. In Dalkeith, a couple of locals noticed the place was looking a bit shabby and quickly became the recruiting sergeants for the town’s small army of guerilla gardeners.

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  • On the ground

    Community Pioneers

    In recent years as new forms of media have become more widely accessible and affordable to the sector, we have become much more effective at ‘telling our story’. But in addition to sharing the many tales of community achievement through film and other artistic mediums, there’s another aspect of this work that remains largely unexplored. And that is the story of the individuals who sit behind these achievements. Each one different but each adding their own separate ingredient to the alchemy of community success. These pioneers all have interesting tales to tell.

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  • Policy talk

    Selling the family silver

    That there is never enough public finance to cover all the bases seems to be the very essence of public finance management. Difficult choices are the name of the game and part of that game seems to be a requirement to exaggerate the impact of any budget cut as if it spells the very end of life itself. Except it never does. And so, like the boy who cried wolf, we begin to disbelieve the claims. But an investigation by the Ferret has uncovered a disturbing trend in how our public finances are being kept afloat.

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  • Policy talk

    Westminster power grab?

    A recurring theme in this briefing is to challenge any tendency to centralise decision making and control over resources. Routinely that challenge is directed at Scottish Government. because although it is largely restricted in what it can spend by the size of the allocation it receives from Westminster, the decisions about how to spend the cash seem to reside mainly at Holyrood. Which is why some recent announcements from Westminster seem so oddly out of step. Three significant funds coming to Scotland are going to bypass Scottish Government completely – dealing with local councils or community organisations directly. Is this the power grab?

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  • Policy talk

    Our Land

    Scotland’s land reform journey has been neither linear nor even paced. But for a time, not long after the first piece of legislation in 2003, campaigners feared that all momentum had been lost and that the journey was over. But times have changed and land reform is now seen as a long term, multi-layered agenda which can deliver many of the social and economic objectives that Scottish Government aspires to. A new report, Our Land, prepared by NEF and Common Weal, and endorsed by land reform stalwarts Andy Wightman and Lesley Riddoch, could be the basis of the next chapter.

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  • Policy talk

    Climate plan backslide

    The Scottish Government has made great play of its ambitious goals on climate change – principally a 75% cut in emissions by 2030 – and it has rightly been praised for it. However, setting targets is one thing, reaching them is quite another. Having consulted on an updated Climate Change Plan, three separate Scottish Parliament committees made recommendations for changes as did many others, including Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS). Having just published its finalised updated Plan, it seems that Scottish Government has chosen to ignore all comments and recommendations for improvement. Here’s what SCCS has to say.

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Featured anchor organisation:

Machrihanish Airbase Community Company

Established in March 2008, MACC was formed by a group of people who shared the same passion and determination to see the airbase facilities used for the benefit of the Kintyre community. Coming from all walks of life, the group included the site’s former Works Service Manager, local business people and other members of the community. Embarking on one of the largest and most complicated community buyouts ever seen in Scotland, board members worked tirelessly to gain the support they needed. Four years down the line, MACC finally purchased the estate on May 11, 2012 from the Ministry of Defence…

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