Some time ago, Kenneth Roy wrote a piece in the Scottish Review, lamenting the lost art of court reporting. Cub reporters, cutting their teeth with some regional paper, would be sent to the local courthouse until they had learned the one inviolable rule of court reporting – report only that which is said. Just the facts, without embellishment. It was considered an important grounding for any career in mainstream journalism at a time when reporting on the facts was considered an article of faith. Now we live in an era of fake news, where people can ‘mis-speak alternative facts’ and where fact checking comes as standard. But all is not lost. Emerging from the debris of what still passes for mainstream media, and with a legitimate claim to be its new face, are the many new, independent digital news platforms. And beneath all this churn in the national and international media, our appetite for regional and community news appears to be as keen as ever. To state the obvious, everything that happens, no matter how significant, has to happen somewhere local. In depth, local reporting is probably more important today than it has ever been. We should cherish our local press.
In the most recent briefing…
In 2001, a small group of parents in the East End of London began to campaign for a level of wage that they felt was the absolute minimum required in order to meet the cost of living. This quickly evolved into the Living Wage Campaign and in recent years this has been taken forward in Scotland by the Poverty Alliance. Some small employers, particularly cash strapped community groups, might feel that it is beyond their means to find the extra from within their budget. Wester Hailes community arts group, WHALE, beg to differ.
Over many years a national network of cycle paths has been gradually developed to the point where there are now well over 2,000 miles of paths across Scotland. Sustrans, the national charity, which has been largely responsible for creating this important piece of national infrastructure are keen for the communities through which these paths pass, to put their mark on them. To this end Sustrans are inviting community groups to consider installing some pieces of public art along the way. Cash is available but the closing date is approaching fast.
Dendrophilia is a condition that afflicts millions of us and, in ever increasing numbers, whole communities. Also known as a love of trees, when communities get involved in the ownership and management of woodlands, the social and environmental benefits that arise from people being more connected with their surrounding nature are enormous. One aspect of the community woodland sector that is perhaps not so well developed is the question of how these assets can make a productive contribution to the local economy. A group based in Argyll, is about to break new ground in this respect.
Cornerstone is one of the largest social care charities in the country. If it were following the usual script, it would be pursuing ever more and ever larger contracts in order to grow the organisation. Except that it’s not doing that – in fact Cornerstone is doing the exact opposite of what might be expected. Hierarchical management structures are being removed and replaced with small, locally-focused, self-managing groups of staff. Cornerstone Scotland is becoming Cornerstone Local. This could be a turning point for the big care providers.
A few more pieces have fallen into place in the complicated jigsaw that will eventually see hutting become part and parcel of Scottish life. New legislation came into force last month that will make it a whole lot easier from a planning perspective for anyone who wants to build a hut for recreational use. And if you don’t know what that entails in a practical sense, but nonetheless like the idea of it, the group – A Thousand Huts – are getting very close to publishing a how-to guide. Watch this space.
Land speculation is, by nature, a risky business. If an investor were to buy a parcel of land (current value £30k) for £300k and thereafter sought planning permission to build a number of houses, the investor is speculating that if planning is granted, the £300k would prove to be money well spent. If on the other hand, planning is refused, the investor faces a hefty loss. Or so you might think. But so one sided is our planning system that the developer can pursue the planning authority for their speculative losses by issuing something called a Purchase Notice. De-risking speculation by any other name.
The human quality of kindness is hard to pin down and virtually impossible to measure but most folk know when they encounter it. We also know that it is important, vital even, to our wellbeing. Carnegie and JRF have been exploring what, if anything, could be done to encourage ‘kinder communities’. Their investigation looked closely at what a number of organisations have been doing to foster kindness and also at those factors which have a tendency to inhibit it. An interesting report and a lovely film to go with it.
When Scottish Parliament first introduced land reform legislation, it was lauded and damned in equal measure -predictable headlines from the right wing press screamed comparisons with Mugabe’s land grabs. But now that the community right to buy is firmly embedded within an ever lengthening list of community empowerment rights, the scale and complexity of community ambition is inevitably growing. From the tiny community on Isle of Ulva‘s ‘late’ bid to buy their island to the development trust in the centre of Edinburgh seeking to acquire a multi-million pound prime site. Will Scottish Government’s response match this level of ambition?