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20th Feb 2019

Launching his iPhone in 2007 Steve Jobs proclaimed, ‘this changes everything’. A little overblown perhaps, but there’s no disputing the evidence - smart phone technology has inveigled itself into our lives in ways that few could have foreseen. Its effect on the news industry is a case in point. More people now read news online than they ever did in print. That’s got to be a good thing, but it’s also an existential threat to what passes for serious journalism. At a national level, digital alternatives continue to evolve, but our local and regional press have been thrown into full scale retreat.  Perhaps because this local space has been so readily filled with Facebook groups and citizen bloggerati, no one seems particularly concerned about the demise of serious, high quality local journalism. But we should be. A recent Government report into the future of journalism has concluded that the capacity of locally-embedded journalists to hold the local machinery of government to account is absolutely essential if local democracy is to thrive. And if need be, society should fund it – simply as a social good. A locally run news media, working in the interests of local people. There’s a thought.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Making sense of land reform

    It’s been said that land reform is a bellwether of Scottish Government’s appetite for radical change. Indeed many feared the 2003 Act was a one off –a dipping of the political toe in the waters of radical policy which would prove a little too warm for comfort. But here we are, 16 years on with new legislation (and rumours of more to come), an active Land Fund, and the new Scottish Land Commission firing on all cylinders. In fact with so much activity, it's easy to lose track of what's happening. Calum MacLeod at Community Land Scotland, provides this useful overview.

  • Arran action

    The war on plastic continues but it’s not one we’re anywhere close to winning. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch that swirls around the north Pacific draws plastic debris into a vast floating island which is currently twice the size of France. Where does it all come from? Mainly us – roughly 8 million pieces of plastic dropped every day. For island communities it must seem like a never ending battle - each tide leaving another line of plastic deposits along the shore.  So hats off to the folk on Arran for being the first community in Scotland to achieve special status.

  • Can we cluster?

    Public expenditure in Scotland runs at approximately £11bn. If our sector could secure just a tiny fraction of those public contracts, it would be transformative. The chief barrier to this happening seems to be one of scale and capacity. How much of this is a smokescreen is hard to discern.  What seems certain though, is that some of these difficulties would be overcome if our sector was more prepared to collaborate and bid for these contracts as ‘clusters’. We need to establish the extent to which there is a willingness to work in this way.

  • Spurred into action

    Awards ceremonies in our sector are a bit of a curate’s egg. For some awards, nominees have to put their own names forward  – something not everyone’s comfortable with - but there’s no doubt that taking away the big prize can give the winners a massive boost.  For other awards, like the dreaded Plook on the Plinth (the most dismal town in the country), no one wants to be picked. Some time ago, the folk in Lochgelly found themselves on the Plook shortlist. They didn’t win but ironically they’re now grateful they were shortlisted.

Policy talk

  • Map reading

    Over the past decade or so, significant investment has come from Scottish Government in support of social enterprise and in that time a complex array of supporting infrastructure has evolved - all of it intended to help the sector grow. At times it’s been referred to as a ‘pipeline’ of support – inferring that an organisation should be able to pass along that pipeline, in a linear fashion, receiving whatever help they need. But in recent years, as the support on offer has expanded, this pipeline image has become outmoded. Drum roll, please…..introducing the Social Enterprise Eco-System Map.

  • Ignorance no defence.

    The pension fund that put Kirkcaldy’s shopping centre up for sale for £1, is the same that unilaterally broke off negotiations with a community group in Dumfries over the sale of commercial property in favour of a public auction.  This high-handed approach might suggest they haven’t read Scottish Government’s guidance on how landowners should engage with communities - nor this protocol and useful guide recently published by Scottish Land Commission.  These are all relatively new developments so these pension fund managers could feasibly claim they weren't aware of their new responsibilities as owners of Scottish property. They are now.

  • Follow the money

    The think-tank landscape in Scotland is a bit thin on the ground. Lots of lobbyists but in terms of organisations with different ideological perspectives where thoughtful, bright people produce policy ideas and think pieces, there seems relatively few. But wherever they do function, their purpose is to shape the development of public policy and as such, and particularly with the increasing prevalence of ‘dark money’ in our politics, we should surely be demanding greater transparency in terms of who funds them. James Bloodworth writing on the Unherd website, asks the questions.

  • Can we be better at food.

    Food is such an essential ingredient of our lives and yet we rarely pause to consider whether what we eat is enhancing our health and wellbeing, whether the price we pay for it values all the work that went into producing it or whether it sustains our natural environment. Scottish Government is considering bringing in legislation to make Scotland A Good Food Nation and the consultation closes next week. To help answer some of the questions, Nourish Scotland have produced a helpful guide. Important that Scottish Government hears from as many voices as possible.

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...