Scottish Community Alliance member networks engage with over 2000 community based organisations and enterprises located the length and breadth of Scotland, which:
Our overarching aim is to help the community sector in Scotland to develop its own distinct identity and voice so that it can campaign effectively on a wide range of issues. We see our work as having two main functions – to promote the work of local people in their communities and to influence national policy development.
The Alliance connects and advances these two aspects of our work through ‘Local People Leading’ - our fortnightly e-mail briefings - and our linked website. We also host occasional events for face to face dialogue between supporters.
The Scottish Community Alliance is leading the campaign for a strong and independent community sector in Scotland. It was initiated in Jan 2007 by an informal coalition of four national networks: Development Trust Association Scotland, Community Woodlands Association, Community Recycling Network Scotland and Senscot. When this informal gathering of networks came together we used the 'wrapper' of Local People Leading to give us a collective identity. Each of these organisations serves community based memberships and together they share a vision of an empowered and independent community sector. Since 2007, Local People Leading was joined by more and more networks with community based memberships. Towards the end of 2010, these networks agreed to formalise this loose arrangement by adopting a constitution and renaming itself - The Scottish Community Alliance.
Those networks that were involved in setting up LPL took the view at the time that creating a separate organisation would have as many disadvantages as benefits. The intention was that LPL should be seen as a 'wrapper' or 'kite mark' which denotes certain shared beliefs, values and intentions - the way the Fairtrade kitemark works. As a campaign to empower communities, LPL was not something distinct from the work already undertaken by participating bodies but served as a joining of forces. Admin functions (management of staff, finance etc) were carried out by a nominated lead organisation (DTA Scotland) - the accountable body. As relationships between these networks had time to develop and levels of mutual trust were able to grow, it was felt that the time was right to formalise the arrangement by constituting the organisation and renaming it the Scottish Community Alliance. A founding principle that all parties subscribed to was that SCA should remain small in size with the emphasis of its work being reflected through the activities of its member networks.
The Scottish Community Alliance takes the view that as a result of the centralist policies of national and local governments over the last 20 -30 years - local democracy in the UK is at a low ebb. We believe that the cornerstone for developing a more sustainable, inclusive and democratic society is for communities to have more control and responsibility for issues that matter most locally. All across the country there are examples of communities that have acted to empower themselves. The vision we share is of a vigorous community sector, able to engage in a new relationship between the state, community organisations and citizens.
A recognised need to address the following key factors was central to the formation of the Scottish Community Alliance:
The UK's elected local councillors answer to an average constituency of 2,600 voters. The equivalent constituency is 667 in Sweden, 250 in Germany and 116 in France. Local election turnout is 80% in Sweden and 70% in Germany; in the UK it runs around at 33%. All our political parties now agree that the excessive centralization of state power has damaged local democracy in Britain and that something must be done to pass power back down to people and communities.
Top down has failed
Scotland's Regeneration Policy "People and Place" emphasizes physical rather than social regeneration and the roles of the public and private sectors rather than communities. Audit Scotland's review of Community Planning Partnerships found that they are failing to engage effectively with communities and that half of them don't even have local representation. The review of the Government's Community Voices programme found it limited both in reach and effectiveness. The Community Sector in Scotland lacks overall co-ordination and is without a collective voice. As a result, it has been marginalized from mainstream policy development.
Local people leading
Despite a lack of support from central and local government over the years, all across Scotland local people have continued to organise and take action at a neighbourhhood level to improve their communities. Much of this activity is informal and unfunded, relying on the voluntary support of local people to sustain itself. More formal organisations such as housing associations and community trusts, also under the control and management of local people, often operate alongside this informal activity and provide the support and leadership to sustain it.
The scale and diversity of all this local activity creates the 'social glue' that binds a community together and generates the civic pride that people feel for the place they live. The Alliance believes that the importance of this contribution to the health and well-being of civil society is not sufficiently recognised nor supported by government. Indeed, the Alliance contends that much of this community led activity is routinely discouraged and resisted by local councils. Scotland needs a 'gathering point' where organisations and individuals who support community empowerment can join forces to campaign for change.
The following networks make up the Scottish Community Alliance. Please click on a network to find out about their members and the impact they are having in communities across Scotland.
Scotland’s communities now have over 25MW of renewable electricity generation, with 17MW due to be installed in 2013 and a further 160MW in the pipeline. This will be sufficient to power over 160,000 homes, and will bring more than £20 million annually into community funds. As well as wind and hydro schemes generating electricity for wider distribution, there are hundreds of micro-generation and renewable heat projects in community buildings and social housing.
Community engagement with renewable energy:
• Combats climate change: generating electricity from renewable sources displaces fossil fuels, reducing total carbon emissions.
• Reduces energy use: through energy audits in community buildings and installation of energy efficiency measures.
• Drives rural development: community wind and hydro schemes create jobs in construction and maintenance, whilst fuel supply for biomass supports wider land management objectives.
• Supports community development: renewables installations produce a reliable long-term income for community organisations, facilitating delivery of a broad range of economic, social and environmental benefits.
The CHEX network comprises 88 locally-led initiatives in low income areas that promote a wide range of activities and campaigns designed to tackle Scotland’s health inequalities. Community-led health organisations are supporting local people to develop solutions that address health and wider inequalities. Through activities - such as walking groups, cookery classes, support groups, complementary therapy sessions and training in ‘Health Issues in the Community’ - they create a range of opportunities to promote change towards positive health outcomes. Including;
• Health & Wellbeing: supporting mental health improvement, promotion of affordable and quality food, social interaction and the promotion of more active lifestyles
• Co-production: placing the skills and knowledge of local people on the same footing as professional ‘experts’ in the joint design of health, and other, public services
• Community Development: empowering individuals and supporting collective community action
• Social Capital: increased as people develop new skills, make new connections and establish new networks of support in their community
The 38 members of Community Land Scotland manage some 200,000 hectares of land, home to some 25,000 people. Community ownership is transforming communities previously considered fragile and unsustainable into exemplars of locally-led asset-based rural development.
Community landowners deliver local, accountable control of land and resources and seek to manage these to achieve integrated sustainable development:
• Promoting economic development: from renewable energy projects and land management to tourism initiatives and affordable housing.
• Maintaining local service delivery: from running the local shop or bunkhouse to providing childcare and countryside ranger services
• Protecting and enhancing the environment: delivering, often in partnership, large scale land management and restoration projects,
• Supporting community development: building community capacity, confidence and empowerment through self-determination and local control of assets.
Most CRNS members are social enterprises managing waste resources at a local level. The community re-use and recycling sector diverts in excess of 45,000 tonnes from landfill each year and generates over £20 million turnover. In addition to reducing landfill and cutting carbon emissions, third sector re-use and recycling organisations contribute to a wide range of social and economic outcomes, employing 750 full-time equivalent staff, involving 3,000 volunteers and supporting 2,000 training placements.
Third sector organisations are a significant aspect of Scotland’s zero waste economy:
• Re-using: taking in household and office items and preparing them for re-use before selling them or passing them on.
• Recycling: collecting and collating materials from households and businesses to be processed and remanufactured into new products.
• Composting: collecting and processing green waste or food waste
• Waste education: working with schools, the public, and businesses to promote recycling and waste minimization and effect positive behaviour change.
Community transport organisations provide safe, accessible and affordable transport solutions to meet local needs, and account for 3.5 million journeys per year with older and disabled people comprising over 80% of passengers. The sector owns or has access to 900 vehicles and an annual income of £10 million.
Individual CT organisations often provide a mix of services, including:
• Community car schemes; a demand-responsive, flexible and accessible service for those who cannot access public transport due to mobility, illness, infirmity or restricted access.
• Group travel services and door-to-door dial-a-ride services; using minibuses operated under section 19 minibus permits.
• Wheels to Work; hiring mopeds and providing other transport services to enable people to get to work, apprenticeships, or to training that will lead to employment and long-term careers.
• Contracted ‘assisted travel’; services such as home-to-school, non-emergency patient or social care transport.
• Demand-responsive or fixed route transport; services operating where commercial bus routes are not viable.
Scotland’s 150 community woodland groups own or manage almost 100,000 hectares of woodland and open land, employ 200 staff, and involve 3,000 volunteers. They implement genuinely sustainable forest management practices, integrating commercial timber harvesting with firewood production for local markets and careful environmental management to support Scotland’s precious biodiversity.
Scotland’s community woodlands deliver a wide range of social benefits:
• Education and skills: pioneering forest schools and other education projects and hosting skills and employability training projects.
• Health and wellbeing: serving as venues for projects supporting individuals with mental and physical health issues, from rehabilitation projects working with recovering addicts, to outdoor activities with the mentally/physical disabled and working with young people excluded from school.
• Recreation & culture: receiving well over half a million recreational visits annually, providing specialist trails for mountain bikes and horses, managing designated environmental and archaeological sites, and hosting arts performances and installations.
Scotland’s 190 Development Trusts manage assets worth over £50 million, employ around 750 staff and have a collective annual income of nearly £50 million. Development trusts are underpinned by a strong ethos of self-help and self-reliance; they work to achieve sustainable community regeneration through management and development of community owned enterprise and assets.
Development trusts are set up to tackle local issues and to improve the quality of life in their community, and can become involved in a very wide range of activities:
• Managing key local services: from the local post office and the village petrol pump to recreation facilities and sports centres,
• Developing businesses: from renewable energy projects and land management to affordable housing, office space, property development and employability initiatives,
• Supporting community cultural life: from preserving the local heritage and restoring and conserving historic buildings to running arts and crafts centres.
Supports much of the GWSF membership and a further 47 community controlled housing associations across the rest of Scotland, which provide 50,000 homes for rent, employ 1400 staff and have a gross rental income of £180 million.
The 220 projects in the Fed’s network in Scotland work to build better communities and make a positive impact on the environment. They engage over 5,000 volunteers, have a collective turnover of £5 million, and are incredibly diverse in size and location, including community-managed farms, gardens, orchards and allotments.
In addition to producing healthy local grown food they:
• improve health and well-being: working with people experiencing mental or physical health problems, coming from institutional care, with addiction issues or learning difficulties.
• provide formal and informal training and education, and routes to employment, especially for those who have experienced exclusion from mainstream society.
• improve awareness around environmental practice: inspiring people and communities to take practical action that tackles the root causes of climate change.
• promote social understanding and community integration; creating beautiful greenspaces where people of all ages and from all backgrounds can come together and share stories, skills and histories.
The 69 community controlled housing associations and co-operatives who are Forum members provide over 75,000 homes for rent, employ 1838 full-time equivalent staff, and have a gross rental income of £246 million. The first community-controlled housing association was established in Govan in the 1970s, to tackle slum housing. In 2011 the ownership of around 19,000 Glasgow Housing Association homes finally passed to local community ownership following successful tenant ballots.
Community-controlled housing associations and co-operatives are about more than just ‘bricks and mortar’. They are enduring examples of community ownership and control and have been pioneers in showing that local solutions work, by:
• Improving poor housing conditions in mixed tenure inner city and town centre neighbourhoods,
• Regenerating decaying, low demand municipal housing estates,
• Supporting town centre regeneration,
• Bringing housing into local community ownership from large municipal landlords such as local authorities and Scottish Homes.
• Pioneering holistic regeneration strategies which enhance the physical, social and economic fabric of their local communities
This is an important gathering point for all those individuals and communities who care about local and sustainable food in Scotland. With over 1100 supporters, Nourish aims to create a stronger local food culture in Scotland in order to impact on land use, biodiversity, human health and greenhouse gas emissions.
The 24 members in this network of community owned shops play a critical role in maintaining the viability of some of our remotest communities. They deliver valuable services, perform vital social functions and have a collective turnover of some £10 million. In addition to selling groceries, hardware and newspapers members operate fuel stations, pharmacies, guest houses, cafes and wind turbines which all contribute to:
• Local Economies; providing jobs for local people and outlets for local producers
• Health & Wellbeing; improving access to good quality, fresh and local food
• Sustainability; offering outlets for local produce and ensuring vital local services are delivered
• Community Development; acting as a focal point for the community, combatting social isolation
SAGS has 130 members, representing over 5000 allotment plot-holders, who grow enough fruit and vegetable to feed a town of 20,000. Allotments feature allocated growing plots for individuals and community groups. There are often common areas for wider amenity use. Allotment associations seek to promote mental and physical health, build inclusive communities and achieve environmental sustainability.
Allotments deliver a wide range of public benefits:
• Health and wellbeing: allotments are restorative spaces for mental and spiritual healing. They promote active lifestyles and produce healthy, locally grown food supporting better diets,
• Climate change: local growing reduces carbon emissions from intensive agriculture, transport and packaging
• Social: allotments are hubs for community cohesion and development,
• Environmental: managing greenspace in urban areas provides a haven for wildlife and amenity benefits for the broader community.
This network seeks to empower and enable communities to create a low carbon future, and promote local resilience and well-being. The 60 community members of Scottish Communities CAN are at the forefront of the community response to climate change. Their diverse range of activities include energy advice and reduction measures, transport, food & growing, composting, waste reduction and reuse projects which deliver significant benefits towards:
• Carbon Savings; from more efficient energy use through education, insulation & renewables; transport behaviour change; fewer food miles
• Health & Wellbeing; from local fresh food; shared community spaces and activities; more active travel
• Local Economies; through creating local jobs; reducing home and transport fuel bills; increasing local resources and produce
• Community Development; bringing people together to deliver projects; building skills and networks; identifying and addressing local priorities
Thie network is made up of 74 community led health improvement organisations. These organisations employ approximately 500 staff, involve over 4000 volunteers and engage with over 300,000 local people in a wide range of community-led approaches to reduce health inequalities in some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.
The 31 Credit Unions in the SLCU are democratically controlled, member-owned financial cooperatives, promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and generating a range of social and economic benefits. They have 42,000 individual members drawn from across the entire economic spectrum of their communities, hold £32 million in savings and make loans of £21 million.
Credit Unions at present cannot charge more than two per cent interest a month on the amount owed – an APR of 26.8 per cent – the only financial institutions in the UK to have such a cap on interest rates. The activities of credit unions:
• address social and financial exclusion,
• drive community social and economic development,
• offer an alternate corporate structure to the main street consumer financial institutions,
• generate rewards for members and local communities.
Voluntary Arts Scotland is the national development agency and representative body for amateur arts and crafts groups, including over 60 national and regional art-form umbrella bodies. Individuals and groups across Scotland participate in voluntary arts activities - including dance, drama, literature, music, media, visual arts, crafts, applied arts, folk arts, shows and festivals - that help to promote:
• Health & Wellbeing; through increased self-confidence, self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth, as well as physiological benefits such as reduced blood pressure and increased fitness
• Lifelong Learning; informal and formal learning opportunities allow people to gain new skills and explore new ideas
• Community Empowerment; through increased social cohesion, personal and community development, improved personal and local image & identity, supporting venues that would not otherwise exist
• Heritage; including the traditional skills of Scottish culture and preservation of national and local heritage