The prospect of some land or a building of local significance coming under community ownership is so commonplace these days that it’s worth reminding ourselves of a time, not so long ago, when it wasn’t. It’s thirty years since the Assynt Crofters took that unprecedented first step towards owning their crofting estate – a step that shook the established order to its core. That landmark community buyout paved the way for countless others, to such an extent that nowadays most community acquisitions go unnoticed. Those who understand and experience community ownership first hand, need no convincing of its power to transform lives, build local resilience and wellbeing, and tackle some of the biggest challenges we face as a society. But despite this relatively recent expansion of community ownership, within mainstream policy circles there remains a stubborn reluctance to recognise its wider potential to deliver multiple social, economic and environmental outcomes. A reluctance which is increasingly untenable given the frequent failures of governance and financial management that are so rife across both public and private sectors – whereas failed ventures under community ownership remain virtually non-existent. The answer policy makers seek is hiding in plain sight. Community ownership by default. Now, there’s an idea.
In the most recent briefing…
One of the current hot trends in community ownership is pubs – especially pubs in the more remote spots. And there is nowhere in the country where you can pull a more remote pint than The Old Forge on the Knoydart Peninsula which the locals have just purchased lock, stock and beer barrel. Plunkett Foundation in conjunction with Community Shares Scotland are hosting a series of networking events for groups who either already are or want to become community owned pubs. Next one is being hosted next month by the very stylishly refurbed and hospitable Black Bull in Gartmore.
The planning system frequently provides a lens through which one can observe how power, influence and wealth can be constrained (or not) in the public interest and also how strong and effective our system of local democracy is (or isn’t). Tennis matriarch, Judy Murray, has long dreamed of building a tennis and golf complex and luxury home development in her hometown of Dunblane. Massive community opposition to the destruction of a much loved woodland area at Park of Keir, and Stirling Council’s overwhelming rejection of the proposal have just been overturned by the Scottish Government. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
The community leaders at Park of Keir (see above) have vowed to continue with their campaign despite recent disappointments. And it’s that indefatigable spirit and perseverance that sometimes gets results even when up against massive corporate interests with deep pockets and expensive lawyers. A group in South Lanarkshire have campaigned long and hard against plans of waste giant Viridor to build what would be Scotland’s largest incinerator – and they appear to be on the verge of winning. But at least six more incinerators are planned elsewhere in the country. Perhaps all these communities could learn from each other.
The sight of those ferries rusting away in Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow and the unfathomable explanations for how and why they ended up this way, feels like a depressing metaphor for the worst bits of how we deliver public services in this country. Centralised and remote decision-making that excludes service users from the design and delivery of the service. And the frequent and unfavourable comparisons with Norwegian ferries just adds to that sense of despair. I don’t even live on an island so my frustration can be nothing compared to those who do. Lesley Riddoch nails it.
In 1968, an unknown Iraqi oil engineer arrived in Norway seeking medical treatment for his son. An accidental meeting, turning up at the wrong job interview, led Farouk al-Kasim to set in motion a chain of events that resulted in Norway accumulating the world’s most valuable sovereign wealth fund by taking an equity stake in their oil resources. When our Finance Minister says she ‘expects’ supply chain benefits to flow to the Scottish economy from offshore wind developers or there might be ‘sanctions’, it makes you wonder why we can’t find our own ‘Farouk’ or even just read his book.
Why some communities thrive and others don’t has long been the subject of lofty academic debate and intense speculation by policy makers and funders alike. The question of how to warm up community ‘cold spots’ has also had significant investment thrown at it – ever since regeneration became a serious concern of Governments stretching back over forty years. And all with remarkably little lasting effect. Interesting research from Community Land Scotland, drawing together data from various sources, suggests that something about the local authority – the prevailing culture perhaps – might be the determining factor in shaping what happens at community level.
Established in September 2003 the organisation evolved through the drive of the local housing provider and the need to focus on regeneration and service development for the community as a whole. Connect is a catalyst and key partner for activities that address a wide range of local people’s needs including training, education, social needs, financial literacy, health, wellbeing and employment. Activities include a walking club, elderly lunch club, dance, ICT courses, various social and community events/evenings, advice and support, youth drop-in, youth holiday programmes, music/recording studio, family excursions, family support, a wide variety of volunteering opportunities and confidence building initiatives.…Find out more