When the final televised debate before Thursday’s elections turned a bit testy on the issue of indyref2, it illustrated just how difficult it is to put genies back in bottles once they escape. While many might want the independence question to disappear forever, few would deny that indyref was a high-water mark in terms of mass political engagement and participation. For better or worse, the referendum campaign proved beyond all doubt that the issue of how we are governed, at all levels, is something we care deeply about. Since September 2014, that debate has stuttered and stumbled but is clearly far from settled. New research by Electoral Reform Society confirms as much. While 76% of us feel we have little or no influence over our local councils, it’s not for lack of interest. On the contrary, we want our democracy to improve – and we’re prepared to work for it. 48% of us are even willing to give half a day per month to help the cause of local democracy. That’s a huge resource, and ERS and many others think the next step should be to embark on a nationwide, citizen-led process of writing a constitution for Scotland. What’s stopping us?
In the most recent briefing…
In our Vision paper we suggest that subsidiarity and self-determination should be guiding principles in the decision making of public bodies and in shaping the relationship between the state and communities. In other words decisions which directly affect a community should be taken as close to that community as possible and communities should be free, as far as is possible, to determine for themselves how they organise. Applying these principles would mean an end to the kind of top down, centrally driven diktats that are currently being foisted upon the crofters on Coll by the Crofters Commission.
The East Lothian town of Tranent was somewhat harshly described in the Gazetteer of 1881 as ‘a place of no importance’. These would be wounding words for any self-respecting community to hear about itself, and the scars have never quite faded for the folk of Tranent. But it is hoped that the official opening last weekend of Tranent’s APOGI might finally lay to rest the ghost of that 1881 Gazetteer. This community led arts project incorporates the area’s historic mining traditions within a new community greenspace.
Whatever your community is thinking of doing it’s likely that someone somewhere will have tried something similar and is more than happy to tell you all about. You just need to find them. And that what the Community Learning Exchange is all about. Small amounts of funding to send groups to learn from others. Groups have to apply through one of the member networks of SCA and since the Exchange opened in late Autumn 2015, 124 groups have benefited. DTAS recently organised for 8 groups to visit two communities in Northumberland. Here’s what happened.
It’s an idea that cultivates new possibilities. When the idea of raising capital from within your community (or beyond) was first floated, renewable energy projects were at the forefront, offering the prospect of both a financial dividend and a feel-good return on investment. But with every passing month a new possibility presents itself. Harbours, farming, sports clubs, heritage and tourism, community hubs, shops and pubs and, most recently whisky distilling. Community shares seem to strengthen community bonds, every bit as much as they aim to raise project finance.
Councils are under pressure like never before, and mistakes will inevitably be made. So it is conceivable that the recent bizarre decision of Dumfries and Galloway Council to dissolve nearly half of its community councils at a stroke, could be explained away as some kind of bureaucratic error. However the Council remains convinced it is in the right. An administrative detail (D&G Council is the only council in Scotland to apply it) is considered so important that thirty eight fully functioning community councils have been told they no longer exist. It beggars belief.
The path of least resistance is a maxim that could be used to describe many of the habits we embrace as part of modern living. We take the shortest, quickest or cheapest route in pursuit of many of our daily goals. And that inevitably has consequences for the many more alternative routes that we choose to eschew. When the Forth Road Bridge was closed to traffic last year, for the many thousands of regular users it forced a sudden reappraisal of the alternatives. Carnegie took advantage of this transport ‘crisis’ to examine some of the hidden impacts.
The bookies have been known to get it wrong occasionally - ask the Leicester City fan who put £100 on his team last August – but as a form guide to which manifesto most closely resembles what the next Scottish Government will be doing over the next five years, then that would be the big yellow one with RE-ELECT on the front cover. Of interest to community anchor organisations everywhere, will be the commitment to support the extension of core funding. This aligns with one of the key asks in the Local People Leading policy paper on Regeneration.
Whenever a story involving the scandalous practices of payday lenders appears in the news, it’s usually accompanied by calls for the credit union movement to step up to the plate and offer a more civilised, fairer system of lending to those who can least afford to borrow. But that is to misunderstand the ethos of credit unions which is about encouraging thrift as much as it is about lending. It is an ethos that clearly has appeal. Scotland now has the fourth largest credit union membership in Europe and continues to grow.
A former mining and quarrying village, Twechar is one of Scotlandís15% most deprived areas. Twechar Community Action was formed as a response to the closure of the Council owned and operated recreation centre and have been managing and operating the centre since April 2001.
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...