Since 2006, Scotland has laid claim to being a world leader on climate change action. When the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and to have all our electricity come from renewable energy by the end of this decade, these legally binding targets were, and still are, considered to be unrivalled anywhere. And because Scotland’s wind and water belong to no one and everyone, and are in such plentiful supply, it has long been understood that at least some of the financial benefits should come to the common good. And to some extent that’s happened, with many communities developing their own energy projects. But this aspiration to be a global beacon of climate action has one major flaw - Scotland doesn’t actually control its energy policy. And this weakness has just been horribly exposed by new UK Energy Minister, Amber Rudd, calling a premature end to the subsidy regime for renewable energy. This is such bad news on so many levels that its catastrophic impact on our sector could easily be overlooked – potentially £40m in lost revenue to communities over the next 20 years. And can anything be done about it? Not much, apparently.
In the most recent briefing…
Throughout all the discussions over the past couple of years about community empowerment and the debates as to what should be in and what should be left out of the Bill, the elephant in the room has been what to do about our missing tier of local democracy. The residents of Sutton Coldfield have just voted to establish a new Town Council, taking on powers previously vested with Birmingham City Council. The new Town Council will raise income through a local tax and deliver local services. Why can't that happen here?
Take One Action is the film festival that promotes community action on the big global issues of the day. Since starting out in Edinburgh in 2008, Take One Action has expanded its presence to other cities. And because its aims are to promote local action, their latest initiative makes perfect sense – Take One Action Local. It’s an invitation to any community group to organise their own hyper-local Take One Action Festival - bringing new insights and inspiration to their community. Lots of help is on offer. They just need an expression of interest by 14/8/15.
In 1874, at the time of the Highland Clearances, a group of crofters on the island of Bernera took action against the injustices that were being meted out by their landowner. Known as the Bernera Riot, the crofters marched to Stornoway to take their case to court. Against all the odds, the crofters won their case and that victory is reckoned to have paved the way for future land reform. 140 years on from that historic victory, the land reform wheel continues to turn with a landmark community buyout.
Despite the fact that the UK Government has just lobbed a grenade into the plans of countless communities who are thinking about how they can harness renewable energy, the need to reduce our carbon emissions is as great as ever. These ideas take time to take root and so an innovative approach by community based environment group – South Seeds – may yet bear fruit. An Energy Snapshot for five communities on the South Side of Glasgow is intended to ask as many questions as answers.
If asked most people would choose to live in a place that they consider to be beautiful rather than ugly but until recently the significance of this perception has been significantly understated. A new report from think tank ResPublica highlights the link between living in a place of beauty and feeling healthier, both physically and mentally, as well as experiencing lower crime rates. To counter the human cost of living with ugliness, ResPublica argue for a new community right to beauty. A little addendum to the Community Empowerment Bill, perhaps?
With the long term future of Scotland’s renewable energy industry thrown into jeopardy, it’s interesting to see what Germany is doing in terms of the locus of control and ownership of energy production and how that’s seen to contribute to the country’s transition to a low carbon future. Despite its obvious attractions, it’s hard to envisage how the German culture of localised public ownership could ever get traction here.
Much has been made about the rejuvenation of Scotland’s democratic muscle since the referendum but the extent to which all that energy can be sustained is very much an unknown. But if our politicians sit back and assume that it’s ‘job done’, then we’re almost certainly in trouble. A new report by Community Development Foundation looks at where trust in the system is strongest (and weakest) and suggests where the new focus of politics should lie.
Although it’s too early to judge Scottish Government’s intentions on land reform, there are already murmurs that the really thorny issues of affordability and availability of land to support the wider interests of public benefit will be avoided. There will be no lack of pressure applied to the political and legislative process over the coming months to ensure that it does, and much of this will undoubtedly come from Our Land – a new initiative pushing for as radical a programme as possible. Next month sees an extensive programme land action.
Glenboig village is located 3 miles to the north of Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire. Its quiet rural setting belies a significant industrial heritage which included world renowned fireclay brickworks, coal mining and significant rail links.
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...