The Scotland Bill has just completed its passage through Westminster, but it’s still difficult to know what to make of it. Some claim it will make the Scottish Parliament the most powerful devolved administration on the planet, while others see only a cleverly concealed fiscal trap, designed to call the Scottish Government’s anti-austerity ‘bluff’ and even hobble the country’s long term economic prospects. The scope of the Bill is wide ranging but most of the early attention has been focused on whether the new powers over welfare and tax could be used to make good the worst elements of the UK Government’s austerity and welfare reform programme. Whether that’s possible remains to be seen, but it’s a little dispiriting that all the focus should be on back-filling cuts in welfare rather than how Scotland could become a much fairer and more prosperous country. Much of the detail has still to emerge and once it has, some tough questions will need answers. Namely, just how committed are we to tackling inequality? Enough to pay a little more tax than the rest of the UK? Or maybe, once everything becomes clear, we'll conclude with that old rejoinder - No Thanks.
In the most recent briefing…
What’s in a name? Potentially, quite a lot apparently. Especially some of the more iconic names associated with Scotland’s landscape and history. It seems that the National Trust for Scotland has been getting a bit twitchy about the opportunities for commercial exploitation. Trouble is, that while NTS may have been acting with the best of intentions, they forgot to tell the people who live in these places that their communities’ names were being registered as trademarks.
The vast majority (95%) of Scottish children are educated by the country’s comprehensive school system. While some schools perform better than others for a variety of reasons, all schools (apart for the private ones) operate under the same rules, follow the same curriculum and work towards the same system of assessment. Local authorities run these schools and always have. In England it’s quite different and some wonder why Scotland shouldn’t have more variety. The Hometown Foundation makes the case for parent-run schools - out with Council control.
More often than not, the best ideas are the simple ones. At a time when the number of people living long into old age is growing exponentially, opportunities for folk (especially men) who aren’t working full time to meet up, pursue hobbies and stay active are increasingly important. It’s now common knowledge that loneliness and isolation pose a massive health risk. The first Men’s Shed appeared in Scotland in 2013. Next week sees the launch of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association. Thereafter a national roadshow kicks off. Get your tickets, men
In recent years, a few communities have become relatively wealthy simply because a windfarm has been developed nearby. Income in the form of community benefit payments in the region of £5k per annum per MW can amount to a hefty sum over the life of a windfarm. For some time now the idea has been floated that some of these communities might like to invest some of their cash by taking a stake in energy projects being developed by other communities. Sounds like a virtuous circle. Anyone care for some Apple Juice?
Ever since the Christie Commission reported its findings in 2011, those responsible for our public services have had a common purpose – to rethink and reshape a system of public services that is fit for purpose, affordable and capable of delivering better outcomes. Easy enough to say, but clearly, judging by results, much harder to achieve. Which is why, when we see real-life examples of transformational change in a public service, we should do more than show a passing interest.
The Scottish Parliament has recently completed an enquiry into the problems of loneliness and social isolation. The report argues that loneliness and a lack of social contact, amongst all ages, should be in the same bracket as poverty and poor housing in terms of its impact on our public health. It affects people from all walks of life but the elderly are particularly vulnerable. The enquiry heard evidence from many organisations trying to tackle this modern day scourge and as ever the community based responses were at the core of this work.
As the momentum builds towards the UN climate change talks in Paris at the end of the month (note: Scotland’s Climate March – 28th November), the UK Government’s attitude towards the renewable energy sector continues to move inexplicably in the opposite direct. Not just content to blow a hole in the subsidy regime for the development of renewable energy projects, the Chancellor in his wisdom has now decided to remove two different forms of tax relief that support community share issues –one of the most efficient ways for communities to raise the necessary funding for their projects.
Back in the 80’s, a young architect was employed by local people in Wester Hailes in Edinburgh to help them design and build some of the community facilities that the planners had failed to provide in the first place. He eventually went on to become one of the country’s leading architects designing some great buildings around the country – particularly in Edinburgh. But then his business went bust. Interesting reflections from Malcolm Fraser on why this happened and in particular, his call for a return to a much smaller scale, localised focus for just about everything.
Since the 1850s, Coalburn developed as a railway settlement associated with the local coal mines. With the closure of the last colliery in 1968 and the railway closure in 1971, the village suffered from unemployment and isolation and the population declined significantly.
Scotland's leading community sector networks have joined together as the Scottish Community Alliance in order to campaign for a strong and independent community sector in Scotland.
The Alliance has two main functions - to promote the work of local people in their communities and to influence national policy development. We email regular briefings to our supporters on both these themes. More about us here...