Small signs of life returning to normal with a reception last week at The Scottish Parliament. The simple pleasure of sharing a glass and catching up with old friends and colleagues serving as a reminder of how limiting the online format is – I’m still thinking about who I met and who said what. Community Land Scotland was showcasing the work of many community landowners who had stepped up during the pandemic. Much has been made of the speed and agility of the community response and the stories we heard were, as ever, deeply impressive. But these same stories have been told many times over and eventually you have to ask, to what end? Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Community Wealth, made clear that the Scottish Government is determined that these powerful examples of ‘community wealth’ must become integral to how Scotland’s economy is organised going forward. All very encouraging but we’ve heard similar sentiments before. Meanwhile, the many vested interests (both public and private) that were so discombobulated by the pandemic are gradually re-finding their feet and reclaiming lost ground. And that means, little by little, communities are being put back in their box. Sadly, life is indeed returning to normal.
In the most recent briefing…
At the height of the financial crash, when the Government was bailing out RBS and others, and when there was a real sense of public outrage at the duplicitous behaviour and shameless greed of the bankers, many felt that civil society was being far too accepting of a situation which had inflicted so much harm on the global economy. At the time, SCVO and others tried to galvanise ‘civil society’ interests into some sort of collective response. However, perhaps because civil society is so diverse, nothing of substance transpired. Common Weal’s Robin McAlpine warns of the dangers of such continuing passivity.
There’s something odd about tomorrow’s local elections and the clue is in the name – ‘local’ elections for ‘local’ councils who deliver ‘local’ services. It’s the most ‘local’ expression of ‘local’ democracy that we have (with apologies to community councils everywhere who would be if they had any powers). What’s odd is watching national leaders of every political persuasion out on the stump and treating these elections as if they’re little more than a proxy for their national agendas. Local democracy is not quite as dead as some of these leaders seem to think. Good piece by Gerry Hassan.
When the Scottish Government decided that there should be only one national intermediary for social enterprise, there was a fair amount of consternation across the sector, not least because it was seen to undermine the independence of the sector. With two organisations in the frame for the ‘job’, the final decision was always going to be contentious. It was and many disagreed with it. But it also seems to have been accepted with remarkably good grace by all parties. Or perhaps not everyone. The international world of academia has just fired a last shot across the bows of the Scottish Government.
Yes! Yes! UCS! , a play by Townsend Theatre Productions, has just finished its UK wide tour. This is the stirring account of the shipyard workforce of the Upper Clyde and the successful occupation of their shipyards and their unique work-in. An inspirational story of community strength, leadership and the power of collectivism. It was funny and moving, with excellent acting and a cleverly designed set. Highly recommended if it ever returns. It’s almost 50 years to the day that Jimmy Reid, one of the UCS leaders, made his famous Glasgow Uni Alienation rectorial address. Always worth a read.
Since the Scottish Government auctioned the seabed leases to energy companies for the development of offshore wind energy, there has been much talk as to whether an opportunity has just been missed by not following Norway’s example and creating a sovereign wealth fund by taking an equity stake in off shore wind development. That said, the £700 million raised from the auction is still a sizeable sum and long term advocate for land reform, Peter Peacock, has some interesting thoughts as to how it should be used.
For many years, and long before Brexit had even been thought of, European funds played an absolutely crucial role in the financial underpinning of the Third Sector. Often difficult to manage and always complicated to report on, despite the hassles it had become an essential feature of the funding landscape. When Brexit became an unexpected fact of life, slightly vague promises were made that no one would lose out when European Social Funds disappeared. Finally, the prospectus for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund has been published. SCVO’s Anna Fowlie shares some useful thoughts on what it might mean for the sector.
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