Scottish Parliament’s TV channel may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when Committees scrutinise legislation and call in the experts to help with their deliberations, it can become almost compulsive viewing. Last week, the contents of the new Planning Bill were put to the sword with the help of ‘witnesses’ from the community sector, and (guilty secret) I watched it all. Written evidence has already piled in and a quick skim of the many community submissions reveals a depressingly consistent theme – a strong sense of alienation and frustration. Watching this evidence session, one could easily conclude that denying communities access to planning has been a very deliberate and long standing ploy. For fifty years, using their professional doublespeak, planners have claimed they are committed to ‘frontloading community involvement’ in drafting their plans. Fifty years of abject failure later, the same old mantra is being trotted out. A new idea this time round is for communities to produce their own ‘place plans’ which planners would need to have ‘due regard’ for. But if this nod towards community-led planning is a serious one, substantial investment and legislative enforcement would be prerequisites. Otherwise, ‘due regard’ simply becomes more doublespeak for ‘read and ignore’.
In the most recent briefing…
Who can walk past the front window of a house with its curtains open and lights on, without turning to have a peek? This natural nosiness has spawned a whole new community arts movement that is steadily sweeping the country. Window Wanderland is the brainchild of a set designer from Bristol and its simple appeal has led to neighbourhoods from across the country becoming highly creative with their front windows. For one night only, or more if you choose, why not turn your street into a magical outdoor gallery?
Wondering round my community’s recent participatory budgeting event - Leith Chooses – one project that caught my attention was from a small group of residents from an area of new build housing who were keen to create some community spirit. With no local history to build on, they really felt they were starting from scratch. Their strength of feeling about this made me wonder how significant having a shared sense of local history can be. A fascinating series on BBC looking at the Secret History of Our Streets reveals much. Glasgow’s Duke Street goes under the microscope tonight.
For over 220 years, it has commanded the community’s skyline but in recent years the Carluke High Mill has fallen into serious disrepair and is now at risk of total collapse. It’s also one of Scotland’s most significant A-listed buildings and has long been an iconic landmark for the locals. What might look like little more than an ancient tower of crumbling stone has been recognised by the local development trust as a vital community asset that sits at the heart of their plans to breathe new life into their village.
How best to protect and conserve Scotland’s marine environment is one of the most hotly contested areas of public policy. Scottish Government has established a network of Marine Protected Areas covering approximately 20% of Scotland’s waters, and these have provided a focus for much of the conflict between different parts of the fishing industry. Despite all the conflict – or perhaps because of it – many of Scotland’s scattered coastal communities have started to organise. The Coastal Communities Network is finding its voice.
When the MP’s expenses scandal was engulfing Westminster, former Prime Minister David Cameron made an odd remark that was scarcely picked up at the time. He suggested that the expenses scandal would be dwarfed by what follows after the facts are made known about the extent of private lobbying. But apart from the occasional newspaper sting catching out senior politicians boasting of their power and influence, nothing of real substance has emerged. Tamsin Cave of Spinwatch suggests we
Across the political spectrum, even where least expected, there are signs that the country’s confidence is finally cracking in the market’s ability to deliver best value and quality in public services. It is testament to how embedded this ideology has become that this has taken so long, given the number of failures we’ve seen in recent years. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, they’ve been quietly getting on with it. This inspiring story from Germany illustrates what’s possible if the will exists. Here in Scotland, our community energy sector, often unseen and unheard, is attempting something not dissimilar.
The NHS is vast and to anyone on the outside (and probably many on the inside), almost impossible to fathom. But occasionally it becomes apparent that certain ideas and approaches are beginning to take root and may lead to real change in the way care is delivered. An increasing emphasis on social prescriptions, the appointment of 200 new community link workers amidst incessant and increasing pressures on the primary care system, all suggest a fundamental shift is underway. George Monbiot acclaims a bold medical breakthrough – it’s called community.
Private polling by SCVO reveals 1 in 4 Scots no longer trust charities – research that was conducted prior to the scandals that have hit Oxfam and Save the Children so it’s fair to assume the situation will have worsened. SCVO has launched its own campaign – I Love Charity – in a bid to repair some of the damage but once trust has been lost it’s so much harder to recover. These mega charities have absolutely nothing in common (bar a regulator) with the many thousands of small, community based charities. Important that these distinction are made loud and clear.