Coming away from an event last week in the Scottish Parliament, I felt dispirited and inspired in equal measure. Organised by Environment Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS), the first part was the how and why ERCS had come into existence – in itself something of a minor miracle given the powerful interests that would undoubtedly prefer that it hadn’t. Then we heard from those who have spent years campaigning against those same vested interests, often having to face real hostility and intimidation, simply so that their communities might enjoy a clean and healthy environment. Some had raised (and lost) small fortunes in failed court actions, others had petitioned the Scottish Parliament – all to no avail. And in every instance Scotland’s environmental regulator, SEPA, had been found wanting.Toothless and useless was how one activist described them to me afterwards. But it’s just possible that ERCS, through its advocacy work and legal advice service, may have lit a touch paper. As we departed the Parliament building, those same campaigners were frantically exchanging contact details, promising to meet again and already agreeing their shared demands – a specialist environmental court and a community right to appeal planning decisions. More power to their elbow.
In the most recent briefing…
As circulation numbers for national newspapers continue to dwindle, it seems that hyper-local news is on a very different trajectory. The independent community press serves a different purpose, reinforces local identity and aims to share the kind of information and news that only means something to the local population. Usually run by volunteers and always on a shoestring, that lack of resource is often not reflected in the quality of finished product or the creativity involved. At last year’s UK wide Creative Lives awards, The Newstead News serving the tiny Borders village (circulation 350) scooped Scotland’s runner up prize.
Scotland has an exceptionally rich built heritage and in recent years community groups have been seen to play an increasingly important role in the preservation and development of locally significant buildings and public realm. Scottish Civic Trust which seeks to help people connect with their built heritage recognises this contribution with the annual My Place Awards. The 2023 shortlist of community led built environment projects has just been announced with the ten contenders coming from Dumfries and Galloway (3), Argyll and Bute (3), Dundee, Perth and Kinross, South Lanarkshire and Scottish Borders. May the best building win.
The concept of the 20 minute neighbourhood has evolved from the experience of several major cities around the world with the best known being Melbourne. But as ever, the devil will be in the detail of its implementation and as the concept is now written into our national planning policy, it’s about time some of that detail started to emerge. Some useful work just published by Living Streets looking at it from a community perspective. And while the research showed that the theory had broad appeal, the reality of walking as a mode of transport is rather more complicated.
With recent announcements from the Scottish Government of new private finance leveraging nature restoration schemes and even providing critical bridging finance for substantial land acquisitions, there’s a new queasiness about where this is all heading. And the latest climate science report (IPCC) only adds to a sense that we are seeking answers in all the wrong places. As Andy Wightman writes in Holyrood Magazine, fiddling around with carbon offsetting schemes does precisely nothing to actually reduce carbon emissions and if we think the answers to Scotland’s climate challenge lie with international financiers, we’re definitely asking the wrong question.
The demise of the high street as the once vibrant heartbeat of our towns and villages has been a concern for years. But as the poundstretcher budget stores and payday lenders move into the empty shop units, they are usually regarded as a proxy for a wider downturn in the economy rather than being in any way directly responsible for the decline. Interesting report from the US which investigates the predatory behaviour of ‘Dollar Stores’ and which suggests twin action is required both from within the communities affected and from the government.
Whenever there’s a reshuffle at the top of the Scottish Government, it’s always a bit of guesswork as to who’s been rewarded or blamed for whatever happened previously. Scotland’s new First Minister’s recently announced team was always going to be more than a reshuffle and so there’s been even more speculation than usual about what it all means. And just as importantly, some analysis of what’s been left out of Ministerial portfolios. What conclusions should we draw from having to dig so far into the lists of ministerial duties for any mention of communities or even third sector?
A former regeneration area, with strong industrial links, Greater Maryhill has seen a renaissance in recent years. However the community still has a poor health record, and suffers from youth gang territorialism. A diverse community, with many cultures living alongside each other, Maryhill still has the spirit of “old” Glasgow and the friendly community feel within the City Centre. Community Central Hall was built in the early 1920’s and when the building came up for sale in the early 1970’s, an action group was formed to prevent the building being sold for private development. Over the past 35 years CCH…Find out more