I’ve always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with the arts. When listening to people with a deep understanding of their subject – whatever the art form – I’m interested as much by what they say as by the fact that I rarely experience what they’re talking about in the terms they describe. I want to, but the true essence of whatever they’re describing generally feels just out of reach. Obviously I get some of it – hopefully everyone does – but for me it feels surface level. It’s a frustration that I often sit on the other side of when trying to describe my work – those all too familiar blank expressions and well meaning smiles. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’m more convinced than ever that the arts, so often seen as low hanging fruit when budgets are tight, should always be integral to how we approach the really big challenges of the day. A simple but telling illustration of this was the recent SURF conference on community wealth building. With all due respect to the Minister and other speakers, it was a performance poet, Kevin P Gilday, who stole the show. A dry subject brought to life by the poet’s craft.
In the most recent briefing…
Wind farms are commonplace these days but nonetheless remain firmly in the Marmite category – liked and loathed in equal measure. Personally I like them. Aside from the joy of watching clean renewable energy being harnessed so efficiently, it’s worth remembering there’s nothing essentially new about this technology. In the pre-industrial era our countryside would have been dotted by windmills – albeit with a very different appearance and with wide cloth sails rather than today’s aerodynamic blades. One of the very few still standing, and possibly the finest example of its kind, is being saved for posterity by Carluke Development Trust.
Tourism is worth approximately £6bn a year to the Scottish economy and sustains something like 200,000 jobs. But as locals on Skye and in many parts of Edinburgh will testify, once visitor numbers reach a certain level (aka overtourism), its negative impact on the community can be such that the tourist can become an unwelcome and unsustainable intrusion. But where communities are able to assert some control, and in particular where visitor facilities are community owned, the value of tourism to the local economy quickly becomes a no brainer. On Eigg for instance, tourists are welcomed as ‘temporary locals’.
Although the severity of the cost of living crisis feels on a scale similar to the pandemic, there’s already a sense that the Government response will fall short. And there’s also a sense that community-led services, still in recovery from the pandemic, will somehow have to find the resilience and capacity to respond. In recent years, Men’s Sheds have become a welcome addition to the community landscape supported by a small team at SMSA. Despite facing an uncertain funding future themselves, SMSA continues to find new ways to promote the multiple benefits of Sheds for men’s health and wellbeing.
In January 2018, the Scottish Government hosted a two day workshop to begin teasing out what improvements might be made to Scotland’s system of local governance. There had been a manifesto commitment to review the system and, if needed, introduce new legislation. All the usual suspects – as well as some not so usual – had been assembled to chew the fat and make sense of the challenge that lay ahead. One in particular seemed to have a better grasp of that challenge than most. And many of the issues Prof James Mitchell highlighted back then, still seem to concern him
Probably the most contentious aspect of all the debates that surrounded the passage of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 focused on whether communities (or indeed anyone other than the developer) would be granted a right of appeal in the face of planning applications that were considered by them to be against the public interest. The planning establishment and the development lobby worked hard to protect their interests and eventually won the day. A coalition of campaign groups have now submitted a formal complaint that the actions of the Scottish Government are in breach of international law. This could be interesting.
Last week the Poverty Alliance hosted a gathering of civil society organisations to consider the fast unfolding cost of living crisis. Every report from frontline organisations painted the same truly grim picture. The stress of being unable to afford the basics of everyday life will become increasingly intolerable for untold thousands, and is certain to exacerbate the current mental health crisis – itself a legacy from the pandemic. While it doesn’t put money in people’s pockets, new research providing scientific evidence for the link between arts engagement and our subjective well being is nonetheless worth noting.
The Foundation was established in 1997 and with the help of many supporters bought out the remains of the Knoydart estate in 1999.Since then it has created significant assets for the whole community and we have 11 properties which are rented out at affordable rents, support community development, operate a ranger service and provide support for tourists and visitors, run a hydro-electric scheme (no grid connection here) and other services, run a bunkhouse, operate a small shop, have a venison butchery business, lease land and buildings, and manage the wild deer herd. With the support of its trading subsidiaries, The…Find out more