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30th November 2016

Is it possible for an economy to be considered ‘big enough’, with no requirement for further growth? Just posing that question feels slightly heretical.  Growth has long been the lifeblood of the global economy along with a belief that it can be forever. Except the laws of nature dictate that it can’t be forever, and shocking new evidence from the Arctic region reminds us of what happens when we defy those laws.  With temperatures in some parts 20° higher than normal and sea ice levels at a record low, the Arctic Resilience Assessment concludes the current rate of ice melt may trigger as many as nineteen tipping points in the region with catastrophic consequences for the planet.  Economic growth is fuelled by our consumption and in the west we consume too much - four times more than the planet can safely provide for. The Scottish Government has been rightly praised for its track record on climate action but unless we adopt economic strategies that put growth to one side and instead seek to sustain steady-state economies that have become ‘big-enough’, so much of that acclaimed climate action will be akin to Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burns.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Epic performers wanted

    The glitz and glamour of award nights can sometimes seem at odds with the day to day grind of life on the frontline for an under-funded, under-pressure voluntary group. But they have a purpose beyond the undoubted thrill of hearing ….and the winner is….. Winning (or even just being nominated) helps with funding, increases the groups profile and can help to promote your message. The call has just gone out from Voluntary Arts Scotland for any wannabee red carpeters at their annual Epic Awards. VAS have also just published this handy guide for creative fundraisers.


  • Plea for humility

    Last week’s social enterprise conference run jointly by Senscot, CE, SFS and ourselves, explored the value of small scale, locally based social enterprises and how, through collaboration and building consortia, our sector might access more of the public spend and hold on to it for longer within our communities. If we become successful in this, tensions will inevitably arise with other parts of the sector – particularly the large national players. Or perhaps these tensions have always existed, as this open letter from Niall McShannon at Clydesdale Community Initatives makes plain.


  • A blue new deal

    When you consider the length of Scotland’s coastline (10,250 miles including the islands) it is a little  surprising that the many hundreds of communities dotted along its length have not banded together in common cause.  Recently, a number have collaborated very effectively around the contentious issue of Marine Protected Areas and New Economics Foundation has been working on a Blue New Deal proposition with coastal communities around the UK. A number of Scottish communities went down to Westminster recently for its launch.


  • Being part of a group matters

    An unintended, although not necessarily unpredicted, consequence of the loosening of family and community ties has been the rise of chronic loneliness and isolation. A killer every bit as deadly as smoking or obesity, the challenge of tackling loneliness is slowly rising up the public health agenda. Voluntary Health Scotland made it the theme of their annual conference earlier this month. Interesting piece of research from Dundee University about the health benefits of being part of a group. More important even than individual relationships. 


Policy talk

  • ESF comes on stream

    Long before the term Brexit had even been coined, civil servants within the Scottish Government were grappling with the new 2014-20 programme of European funding (ESF and ERDF). High hopes and grand plans were being laid for a much more stream lined, simpler process. Now, almost two years later, with those high hopes of better integration significantly tempered, a much delayed package of nearly £30m ESF funding is (almost) ready to go. General information is up on the web. Application forms and detailed guidance to follow. A roadshow of events is planned.


  • Crunch time

    Crunch time looms for local government. The Accounts Commission predicts that within two years more than a third of our local authorities will run a budget deficit greater than their total reserves. If necessity is the mother of invention, a time of real churn lies ahead. COSLA is reconvening its Commission on Local Democracy in what looks like an attempt to inject real urgency into the ‘what-do-we-do-now’ discussions. Driven in part by the financial squeeze, and in part by frustration at a lack of progress, it looks like Scottish Government has plans of its own.  


  • Time for citizens

    George Monbiot’s writing can be inspirational but it can also be unremittingly gloomy. In this piece he goes overboard, even by his standards, and lists the 13 big crises that currently face us (albeit three are Trump related).  What they all highlight in different ways is that there has never been a more crucial time to consider how we as citizens respond. A timely new project – Citizenship 4.0 : an invitation to power change – comes from RSA and JRF. As Barack Obama once opined the most important title is not ‘president’ or ‘prime minister’; the most important title is ‘citizen’.


  • Building the basic income

    When first introduced to the concept of a Citizen’s Basic Income, the typical reaction is one of scorn and scepticism in equal measure. But once that subsides, the inherent appeal of this radical idea quickly becomes apparent and the questions begin to focus more on the practicalities and affordability of implementation.  Further proof that this idea is beginning to gain real traction came last weekend with the launch of the Citizens’ Basic Income Network Scotland. Next step is to run some trials and it looks like this might happen in Fife.


About Scottish Community Alliance

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...