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9th September 2020

Some years ago I spent my holidays in a small rural village in south west France. With a population of less than 800, the village is a commune – France’s most local tier of government. With an elected mayor and its own budget raised from local taxes, the commune has responsibility for delivering a number of local services. One of which appeared to be the village caretaker. A constant presence around the place – sweeping up after events in the square, tending to the public realm, emptying litter bins. A general factotum of sorts although it soon became apparent there was more to this role than met the eye.  Literally a ‘caretaker’, this man also seemed to be ‘taking care’ of some of the village’s more vulnerable and elderly residents. Constantly stopping to chat, carrying shopping, doing the odd job or accompanying someone along to the village day centre. I’ve often wondered whether we could adapt this model to fit here.  A community caretaker service – light touch, social care support to help our elderly enjoy healthier and happier lives in their communities. Perhaps if we cared for people and place as if they were inextricably linked, we would get better outcomes all round.

In the most recent briefing…

  • On the ground

    Invest in homelessness

    Unless you have lived experience of homelessness I suspect it is literally unimaginable. The Big Sleep Out has become a phenomenal success in raising awareness and money worldwide but we don’t seem any closer to solving this hugely complex problem.  That said, and while acknowledging there are no simple solutions, one homeless charity, Rowan Alba in association with Community Shares Scotland is charting a route that seems to offer real potential. If you’ve ever felt you’d like to do more than put money in an old coffee cup, this new initiative – Common Ground – may be the answer.

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  • On the ground

    Grow local

    Walking down the street the other day, I came across a small group squeezed into what looked an impossibly small space behind a fence tending to some raised beds and picking some tasty looking vegetables. Turns out they were part of a wider network of local gardeners around Edinburgh growing food and flowers on all manner and sizes of plots of ‘borrowed’ land. Edible Estates has been on the go for a few years, somewhat under the radar but steadily expanding their reach across the city. That expansion looks set to accelerate in the aftermath of Covid.

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  • On the ground

    When all else fails…

    10 years ago at a conference in Nagoya, Japan a multi-lateral agreement to tackle biodiversity loss across the planet was signed. The Aichi Accord agreed 20 biodiversity goals that had to be reached by 2020. Not one of them has been achieved. Last week, at a similar gathering of nation states (online) hosted by Scottish Government, the Edinburgh Declaration was published which suggests we are moving into last chance saloon territory. After years of failure, there is finally official recognition that ‘the current approach is bust’. Apparently it’s time to start working more closely with communities. Who’d have guessed?

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  • On the ground

    A place beyond

    There is a small (but growing) and persistent band of folk in Scotland dedicated to a cause which seems to have found a more natural home in Norway.  That cause is hutting. Small wooden huts, of simple construction (some not so simple), off grid and away from everything. Lesley Riddoch is a bit of a fan. So much so that she’s written a book about it. Huts – a place beyond. How to end our exile from nature.  Join her tomorrow evening at the book launch when she’ll be in conversation with Andy Wightman. 

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  • Policy talk

    Enshrining local government 

    With the very fundamentals of democracy around the world coming under threat as never before, it’s self-evident that nothing should be taken for granted. What would have been inconceivable behaviour for a mature western democracy just a few short years ago has become the new norm. And once the fundamentals of strong, healthy democratic behaviour  are lost, it becomes much harder to rediscover them. Which is why Andy Wightman’s Bill to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government into domestic law is so important. If nothing else as a backstop against the over-centralisation of power. Consultation ends next week.

     

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  • Policy talk

    Share the knowledge

    There’s much talk at the moment of how anchor institutions – hospitals, universities, local authorities and so on – should be redirecting their considerable spending power towards the local economy. Community wealth building is the new zeitgeist. These aforementioned anchor institutions, and in particular universities, also have significant amounts of intellectual and social capital that could (should) be refocused to ensure greater community benefit. For some years, Glasgow Uni has been developing stronger links with the City’s Third Sector and is about to embark on the Third Sector Knowledge Exchange Collaborative in partnership with GCVS. Universities elsewhere, take note.

     

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  • Policy talk

    Human rights and land

    At first glance, if it’s not a subject that you’ve previously explored, land reform might seem to be simply about addressing the well documented and highly distorted pattern of land ownership that continues to set Scotland apart from most other countries. But once you dig into it, it becomes increasingly clear that the issue of land ownership and how land use decisions are made has far reaching implications for the country, and especially so in the post-pandemic phase of recovery and renewal. Land Commissioner Megan MacInnes shares some thoughts through the lens of human rights.

     

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  • Policy talk

    The economic clearances

    An open letter published this week by community leaders describes the housing market on Scotland’s islands as driving a form of ‘economic clearances’ with house prices being pushed ever further out of the reach of young people. With the second home market booming – 40% of houses on Tiree being second homes – and with a post-pandemic boost to the market exacerbating the problem, some kind of direct government intervention other than cash is called for. A FOI request has revealed that only 68 houses have been built as a result of government initiatives that promised 500. 

     

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Featured anchor organisation:

Community Links

Community Links (South Lanarkshire) is an independent, not for profit, community engagement and community development organisation working with communities across South Lanarkshire, particularly the most deprived (as defined in SIMD 2012). It supports ‘community inspired regeneration’, and asset based community development.  Its work includes the design and production of the Community Matters Newspaper; undertaking community and volunteer development in addition to various consultations; facilitating events; tackling food poverty; delivering environmental community projects; addressing sectarian issues via social media; communication through social marketing & media campaigns; and delivering employability support projects.  It builds community capacity through the Asset Based Community Development…

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