I live in Edinburgh and August is the month when the city’s festival alter ego comes out to play. Loved or loathed by locals in about equal part, the million or so culture vultures that flock to the city generate an atmosphere all of its own. But this instinct to come together and celebrate a shared interest is one which extends far beyond an appreciation of the arts. This is also the time of year when different parts of the community sector hold their own distinct brand of festival (aka conferences), celebrating their collective achievements, freely sharing know-how and reinforcing a collective belief in the power of local action. Last weekend the community woodlands movement descended on Dunoon, next weekend Scotland’s development trusts gather in Inverness and the following week the climate change action network hold an unconference in Comrie. And so it continues throughout autumn. The aggregate knowledge base of these annual festivals of community action is a huge national resource that we could and should make much more of - and now Scottish Government agrees. Funding has been agreed to support the development of a Community Learning Exchange. A veritable festival of local learning. Stay tuned for more details.
In the most recent briefing…
Dr Beeching’s infamous 1963 report recommending the closure of 5,000 miles of Britain’s rail network and more than 2000 stations, has long been a source of railway regret. It left many communities effectively stranded - cut off from the national transport system. It was also the spur for a large number of long haul, community based campaigns to have these transport links reinstated. The most successful of these culminates next week, with the reopening of a long lost line to the Borders.
Next month Scotland’s emerging market in community shares will welcome a new entrant – the coastal village of Port Patrick. At the heart of the village lies a small harbour and as far as the community is concerned, this is their number one asset – except that they can’t do anything to improve it. The harbour is currently owned by a Jersey based investment company but the community are in no doubt it would be better served under their ownership.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Government funded the construction of a slipway at Staffin in the north of Skye. The impact on the community was massive. For the first time, supplies could be delivered safely by sea. And more than 100 years on, the slipway continues to be the main priority for this 600 strong community as they look to the future. Only this time, their plans are a little more ambitious. And in an area where employment opportunities are scarce, the prospect of 60 new jobs is an enticing one.
In any consideration of a community’s assets, you’d expect to see the local library somewhere fairly high on the list. If that is, they still have one. Speaking at Edinburgh’s Book Festival, Ali Smith railed against the policy to close libraries arguing that it threatened the ‘democracy of reading’. Carnegie UK have always had a keen interest in the future of libraries. With good reason too – Andrew Carnegie founded 2509 public libraries worldwide. Earlier this year, Carnegie explored with COSLA and others, how libraries could adapt but still stay relevant to the communities they serve.
Say land reform and it’s a fair bet the word rural springs to mind. But it’s a perception badly in need of correction if the problem of vast tracts of vacant or derelict land in our towns and cities is ever to be resolved. The Land Reform Review Group had some interesting things to say about this, most notably the proposal to introduce a new instrument - compulsory sale orders. Prof David Adams, an advisor to LRRG, gives his take on why the urban component of land reform needs much more attention.
So much of the banking crisis was presented to us as if there was absolutely no alternative to the eye-watering amounts of tax payers money used to bail out the bankers. And that continues to this day as we witness the next phase of what appears to be the continual policy of enriching City institutions with an undervalued sell off of the publicly owned RBS – estimated to cost every household another £500. But it doesn’t (or didn’t) have to be this way, as Caroline Leckie explains.
For years national economic strategies seemed to focus exclusively on cities. The urban areas were deemed the ‘power house’ of the nation and as a result they got all the attention and most of the resources. The plight of our small towns and in particular town centres, which have been in steady decline for years, was consistently ignored. But no more. Towns and town centre regeneration is under the spotlight and local people are being asked to play their part. A new £1.7m Fund has been launched. Community groups are invited to apply.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, privateers were routinely used to supplement the Royal Navy’s strength. Not operating under naval rules, they often courted a fine line between piracy and supplementing the country’s naval strength. An interesting blog from David Janner-Klausner in response to Res Publica’s recent call for a Community Right to Beauty. He argues that a new category of civic actor is required which fits the community group that is prepared to step up and assume roles previously held by the state. It’s time for the publicteer to take the stage.
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...