For the first time in ages, I’ve attended a proper conference – one with real live delegates and which, just to stir the nostalgia even more, required a long distance train journey and an overnight stay. An instinctive introvert, I’m rarely drawn towards large crowds of people but I’d completely forgotten about the surprising value of those snatched conversations in the coffee queue and the free exchange of ideas at the conference tables and over lunch. This event was unfamiliar terrain for me – very few community sector types present – mostly trade unionists, with some notable national figures among them. The most revealing thing was that for a movement so often portrayed as being backward facing and out of touch (the media were denied access), these trade unions are not only acutely aware of the existential threats facing them but are actively taking steps to adapt and change. They’ve recognised that they need to become relevant again to the communities in which their members live and work, and are genuinely up for whatever that might entail. It may just have been the novelty of being out and about again, but I came away thoroughly energised and enthused by what I’d heard.
In the most recent briefing…
In 1998, a remote west highland community faced an uncertain future when the village’s only fuel pump was removed. That crisis became the catalyst for more than two decades of remarkable community action to safeguard the community’s future. Having resolved the fuel pump crisis, the community proceeded to build yachting pontoons and shore facilities, an allotment site, a community hub, cafe and office space and three, one bedroom houses. And that’s just the building projects. Potentially the most ambitious of which opened last month – the UK’s largest community owned hydropower scheme. Morvern Community Development Company – take a bow.
So, COP26 may be over but the debate as to whether it was a partial success or abject failure is far from settled. That assessment comes down to whether you align with the interests of rich global north nations or the more directly impacted global south. But outside the official sphere of blue zone negotiations, there was an entirely alternative COP experience being played out on the streets and community spaces of Glasgow. Kat Jones, SCCS’ COP Manager, who was instrumental in pulling together so many threads of what she calls, the ‘real’ COP, reflects back on that experience.
Almost inevitably, there was going to be a hiatus of sorts once the COP circus had packed up and rolled out of Glasgow. But any time-out to restore energy levels or to refocus your community’s attention on what needs to happen next, has to be short lived. And to that end, this recently produced cinematic gem, charting Scotland’s climate journey could help to fire up the passion once again in your community to take the climate action that’s needed. The film is being made available at no charge to any community that would like to organise a screening.
There has been a discernible shift in the support from the Scottish Government towards community based climate action. Moving on from the Climate Challenge Fund (sidenote: the full report and findings of the review of CCF have still not been published) the new approach looks to be more varied – Climate Action Hubs and regional climate networks are being developed, Climate Action Towns have been designated and support given to draft Climate Action Plans. SCCAN, who will be supporting the new climate hubs and regional networks, view all this work as sitting within a broad framework of the wellbeing economy.
It’s often hard to gauge overall progress when it comes to one of the most wide ranging policy areas – land reform – because there are just so many dimensions to it and, by its very nature, it is of such fundamental significance to the country’s long term progress. But intermittently, opportunities present themselves to pause and reflect on how the wider policy landscape has shifted and whether any adjustments are required to maintain the momentum. The Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement – a critically important device in that respect – is five years old and due a review. The Scottish Government is consulting.
It’s ironic that in the midst of the most serious public health crisis in living memory, when resources are stretched beyond breaking point, the community-led health sector continues to struggle to be taken seriously as a provider of ‘upstream’ services that stand ready to alleviate pressure from the statutory services. Whether it’s the proven benefits of men’s sheds or Scotland’s many, long established community-led health improvement organisations, those who control the budgets seem incapable of shifting the needle. Not that more evidence is needed, but here’s another example of great value for money community led mental health services.
If we are to review the Community Empowerment Act, as the Scottish Government is committed to doing, we should surely do that in the context of whether the Act advances a broader set of ambitions for Scotland’s communities. For instance, how does it promote community wealth building, our renewed focus on place, a greater diversity of land ownership or on delivering local climate action. We seem to lack a ‘big picture’ vision for communities into which so many associated policies could become connected. Community Land Scotland’s Calum Macleod makes a start at joining some of the dots.
The misery experienced by thousands of households in the last couple of weeks who had their power lines cut off by Storm Arwin just as temperatures plummetted, simply served to reveal the misery experienced by untold numbers who can’t afford to heat their houses at any time. Over the years there have been many false dawns with projects promising to tackle fuel poverty head on, often organising around cooperative principles but none to my knowledge have proved effective. Neil Clapperton, CEO of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association believes he may be onto something with Power Circle. Fingers crossed.
The Boyndie Trust was established in 1999 by a group of local people to ensure the broad-based regeneration of the area, including the employability and well-being of people who are disadvantaged in the labour market. The Trust owns and has converted a beautiful red-brick Victorian school building into a visitor centre which attracts 35,000 visitors a year. The centre boasts a four star restaurant, gift shop, plant nursery, textiles workshop, joinery business and office space. Together these provide training opportunities for 70 people, many who have special needs, and paid employment for a further 30 people. Products from the textile…Find out more