It may just be the preserve of the obsessive Holyrood watcher, but whenever a new Cabinet team is unveiled, a frantic examination of Ministerial titles and their bullet-pointed remits quickly follows in an attempt to second guess the priorities of the incoming Government. Attempting to read the runes of the most recent Cabinet appointments, the unprecedented absence of communities from any Ministerial or Cab Sec’s title could be construed as a downgrading of our profile within Government thinking. This and the lack of obvious visibility for social enterprise and indeed the broader third sector has already caused widespread consternation. But after some digging, Ministerial responsibility for community empowerment was eventually found – intriguingly, and for the first time, sitting in the Finance and Economy side of the Cabinet. This feels like a very conscious and deliberate shift. The same Minister, Tom Arthur MSP, also has responsibility for community wealth building – an area in which there is a promise of legislation. In another noteworthy and potentially significant rejigging of responsibilities – the local governance review, democratic renewal and public service reform – all now sit with John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister. Rearranging the deckchairs? Or signs of serious intent? Only time will tell.
In the most recent briefing…
In Scotland, we use the phrase community empowerment to describe what others call localisation. And many communities who have been on that journey, have chosen to come together with other, like minded communities to form networks to share their knowledge and experiences. But in the main, with some notable exceptions, we have restricted those networks to within Scotland. It’s worth remembering that a global movement exists which is focused on localisation. Next week sees the start of a week-long celebration leading up to World Localisation Day. The programme is jam packed with talks from the biggest names in this global movement.
While visiting Shetland last month, on a towering sea cliff right at the most northerly tip, I bumped into someone I knew. She runs the trading arm of a local development trust – Northmavine Community Development Company. One of the enterprises that NCDC operates is called Polycrub – a polytunnel built to withstand the 100+mph winds that regularly batter the islands. Reusing discarded fish farm materials and of their own unique design, sales are absolutely booming. Polycrub kits have been dispatched as far afield as the Falklands. Aside from renewable energy projects, I can’t think of a more financially successful community enterprise.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the term development trust was still relatively unknown and certainly not well understood by policy makers and politicians. On more than one occasion I heard both local and national politicians declare, ‘I want one of those in this community’. To which I’d have to counter, ‘Actually, that’s not how it works. Local people need to decide that for themselves’. Some of the same misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, continues today in relation to asset transfer and more broadly, community empowerment. Good piece by Jim Monaghan in Bella Caledonia.
The reopening of Scotland’s Men’s Sheds could be a metaphor for the rest of the country. Gradual, tentative in places but long awaited and a vital cog in the much needed return to some semblance of normality. As part of the national volunteers’ week, two Sheds in particular have just won the highest award in the volunteering world – The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – in recognition of their outstanding contribution to their communities. Nice wee film from one of them too. Congratulations to all involved.
The local council elections next year will be 15 years since the introduction of proportional representation and multi member wards. As a result, we’ve witnessed all shapes and sizes of coalition administrations cobbled together to run our 32 local authorities. While there are arguments to support coalition government – it tends to encourage more meaningful debate and less partisan decision making – it undoubtedly blurs the lines of democratic accountability. From the electors perspective, who is actually in charge and responsible for the decisions made? Interesting paper from thinktank Reform Scotland calling for the introduction of directly elected Mayors.
Although there are still many (known and unknown) unknowns around COP26 in terms of what form it will take, the momentum continues to build. Last month the Climate Fringe Week launched (18th – 26th September) which aims to be a celebration of climate action from across Scotland’s civil society. From now until COP26 is over, the Climate Fringe website is where to find information on events, how to become a host for visiting climate activists, where venues are located, how to navigate the Green Map of Glasgow and much more about how you can become involved in this all important event.
Throughout the pandemic, there seems to have been a constant and as yet unresolved tension between the national and local systems of response to the management of outbreaks, testing, tracking etc. And presumably these same tensions will inevitably characterise our recovery. But the lessons of this pandemic are already being fed into a global process to ensure better preparedness and responses for the inevitable next pandemic. And there is clear evidence emerging from around the world of the effectiveness of locally led strategies to combat outbreaks of disease where top down approaches have failed. We need to learn these lessons.
In 2000 a group of local people came together to address the need for affordable housing in the Creetown area. This led to the setting up in 2004 of the Creetown Initiative to address local needs and the delivery of a range of regeneration projects to support the local economy including: environmental, renewables, sport and healthy living, community facilities, art and education. The Creetown Initiative Consultancy arm was created in 2006 when community groups elsewhere saw what was happening in Creetown and wanted assistance to carry out similar projects in their own area. The consultancy has now worked with other…Find out more