Will the Community Empowerment Act prove to be good legislation? Will it (could it ever) live up to the early hype? Legislating for something that is manifestly already happening of its own accord in so many parts of the country was always going to be a challenge and even where communities are being blatantly thwarted in their ambition, the root causes seemed to lie more in the dominant culture of some public bodies than anything else. So, will the Act prevent the kind of high farce witnessed at Castle Toward? Will it result in sufficient land being released to meet the demand for allotments and community growing spaces? Will a new relationship emerge between communities and those who deliver public services? Most crucially of all, will it produce the shift in the culture and practices of those public bodies? The general consensus seems to be that the jury’s out until all the guidance and regulations for the Act are in. In other words, the devil will be in the tortuous process of sifting through every last detail of how the Act is to work in practice. Worth keeping an eye on all this as it emerges. The devil’s work has just begun.
In the most recent briefing…
Local currencies, alternative systems of money that run in parallel with the formal currency of the country, are not many in number but where they have become properly established they tend to last. One of the country’s oldest and most successful currencies is the Eko, which serves the Findhorn community in Moray. Of late, Eko notes have even become collectors’ items – in itself a useful source of additional income for the community. All that must seem a long way off to the People’s Bank of Govanhill as they set about launching their first Govanhill Pound.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Parliament launched an enquiry into the impact of loneliness and isolation on the elderly. The final report is due later this autumn but a clear link to physical and mental wellbeing is widely accepted. Speaking yesterday at a conference on this issue, John Macdonald of Community Transport Association argued that transport provision, or the lack of it, is all too often ignored as a causal factor. A reality that anyone over a certain age in the Sighthill area of Glasgow is just waking up to.
It’s sometimes worth stepping back and taking a pause from the daily grind to get some perspective on how the policy landscape has changed. Five years ago, a group of community landowners came to together because they felt that the appetite for land reform within Scottish Government had fizzled out. This week Community Land Scotland celebrate their fifth birthday with a real sense of satisfaction at what has been achieved over that time.
The Turner Prize and the City of Glasgow have become almost synonymous with Glasgow School of Art. GSA has produced five past winners and 30% of all nominations since 2006. This year the exhibition itself comes to the Tramway in Glasgow and with an anticipated 50,000 visitors flocking into the area, the local community have plans of their own to capitalise on this (albeit temporary) heightened awareness of design and community place making.
In the last briefing, the reporting of Muhammad Yunus’ view that the pursuit of private profit is wholly incompatible with the values of our sector was not universally well received. Seems there’s a strong belief out there that the market will generally produce the best outcomes. Frustratingly, the counter arguments to this world view often seem to lack the hard evidence to back them up. For once though, GP and author Gavin Francis writing in the Guardian, exposes the stark reality of what happens when the profit motive is allowed to encroach into healthcare.
The numbers tend to vary depending on who you listen to, but Scotland’s Third Sector is worth a bob or two. Something in the region of £400m is currently estimated to be held in reserves. If just a fraction of that amount (presumably sitting on deposit earning very little interest) was redirected into the sector, the impact could be massive. This is raison d’etre of the Scottish Community Reinvestment Trust. Next month, SCRT hosts an event to explore how this investment approach would create a more equal and sustainable society.
As the window closed on what could go into the Community Empowerment Act, there was concerted lobbying from various quarters to squeeze in some kind of duty on public bodies to engage in Participatory Budgeting. Rather than include it in the Bill, Scottish Government chose to set up a working group with a remit to develop this form of civic engagement across Scotland. Scottish Government has been wholly committed to this work, investing in a national training programme for local authorities. Last week a new web portal was launched.
Most people’s response to any mention of EU funds is two-fold. Firstly, people imagine that the application process will be impossibly complicated. And secondly that the paperwork involved in the monitoring and evaluation will be mountainous. Neither is necessarily the case. But what is true is that there some very real opportunities for communities to apply in the new 2014 -20 programme. First thing to do is attend the next masterclass. If you can’t attend, read this latest update and fill in an expression of interest.
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...