Every time I find myself in a discussion about Community Planning, it feels just a little more like Groundhog Day. Attending one such event last week, it’s no surprise for me to report there’s nothing new to report. One of the most enduring misnomers in the lexicon of public policy, the idea that communities can play an active part in planning for better public services has always seemed implausible – especially so because of Scotland’s predilection for ever larger, more centralised units of public administration. Over 25 years of Community Planning, there have been many false dawns, each one suggesting that those seemingly impregnable silos of the public sector are about to be dismantled (a prerequisite of Community Planning as originally conceived). One such was the Concordat of 2007 – hailed as a landmark agreement in which national and local government were to become ‘equals in the governance of Scotland’. Such a powerful statement of intent, one can only speculate how different Scotland might be if it hadn’t fallen victim so quickly to the politics of the day. With power more evenly distributed and more rooted in communities, it’s even possible that my Groundhog Day would have finally come to an end.
In the most recent briefing…
After five years of planning, the Arran Development Trust is finally able to begin laying the foundation work for a housing development of 18 homes for rent for local people. A mix of one, two and three bed homes, workers employed on the island will also soon be able to live on the island. A remarkable achievement in itself but, according to the chair of ADT, not the most significant. The biggest prize has been learning how to build partnerships with their public and private partners. A revealing reflection and perhaps one that other communities could learn from.
A previous edition touched on a proposal from Highlands Rewilding to purchase the Tayvallich estate through a ‘mass ownership’ model. What seems to be a mix of crowdfunding and larger investments from financial institutions, this unusual model of ownership is described on its website as ‘enabling nature recovery and community prosperity through rewilding.’ Since a community bid to purchase the estate fell through, many locals view Highlands Rewilding’s offer as the preferred alternative to a private landowner. Alastair McIntosh, land reformer and long term advocate of community ownership, shares his thoughts. It’s a long read, but worth it.
Last year’s industrial action by refuse workers only served to highlight the longstanding and worsening problem of litter in Scotland. Keep Scotland Beautiful have called for a new approach to what it calls a litter emergency and a new national litter plan will be launched in the weeks ahead. For some reason, for too many people, litter has become someone else’s responsibility. Community litter picks aside, what else can be done? In the States, the idea of adopting roads and highways has been in place for a while. More recently, communities have even been adopting, and naming, storm drains.
The gradual depopulation of our rural communities is in many respects a trend mirrored around the world. The lure of better employment and educational opportunities is often too strong to resist and combined with the perennial lack of affordable housing many of our young people don’t even feel they have a choice. Inspiralba, a community-led economic development organisation based in Campbeltown, are aiming to reverse the brain-drain of local talent with a scheme that gives young people the chance to continue to live locally, to work for their community and to gain qualifications all at the same time.
Whenever a new initiative makes its entrance onto the policy landscape, it’s always worth observing how quickly it acquires the status of ‘assumed knowledge’ whereby casual references to the initiative imply a detailed grasp that is rarely if ever challenged. So it is with Community Wealth Building. Lately it has become commonplace to hear people refer to a ‘CWB approach or methodology’ as if we all have a shared understanding of what that might mean. Last week the Scottish Government launched its consultation in advance of proposals to legislate. Important then, that we begin to grasp the detail.
Running through several Scottish Government policies at the moment is the theme of Just Transition – the idea that the country must move quickly towards a post carbon economy but that this should happen in a way that protects the interests and is fair to the thousands of workers and those communities that have most to lose. It is one of those policy ambitions that sounds fine but is difficult to deliver when it comes down to the individuals or communities concerned. Excellent film which depicts what a Just Transition might mean from the perspective of those communities most affected.
The commitment of local people to music and culture led during 1980s to, first, the Glenuig Music Festival, and then the establishment of the Glenuig Community Association. The Association has now delivered the purpose-built Glenuig Hall to house its extensive arts programme and other community’s activities. It’s now branching out into other social enterprises, and using its activities and the income generated to invest in the community’s future.Find out more