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19th April 2017

Bhutan is the world’s youngest democracy, emerging from under the rule of absolute monarchy less than a decade ago. Last month, a delegation of these democratic newbies arrived in Edinburgh on a fact finding tour, intrigued in particular by Scotland’s Youth Parliament and Children's Parliament.  Bhutan's transition into a fully-fledged democracy was entirely peaceful - no more than one would expect of a country that has eschewed conventional measurements of economic progress in favour of one that values its people’s happiness.  But there’s nothing frivolous about GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness). Bhutan’s leaders have observed how the headlong pursuit of economic growth has impacted on the rest of the world and have chosen a very different path for their country. Their pursuit of happiness is driven by a conviction that national prosperity is only possible when protecting the natural environment is treated with as much reverence as focusing on the wellbeing of every citizen. This ‘economic model’ is so at odds with mainstream thinking as to appear almost fanciful – and yet it’s the only one that offers any real hope.  Bhutan’s intuitive grasp of 21st century economics is reaffirmed in Kate Raworth’s fascinating new book Doughnut Economics.  Really worth a read.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • The Community Party

    With council elections just around the corner, party workers are canvassing hard on behalf of their candidates. Since the introduction of the single transferrable vote (STV) we’ve had a system of multi-member wards which seems to have the effect of reducing the significance of party affiliations - at least as experienced at ward level. So what or who are we really voting for? A political party or an individual who we can trust will always put our community’s interests first. A new party standing in West Dunbartonshire aims to offer voters both options with just one vote.


  • Face to face learning

    A well-judged search on the internet will bring up information on virtually anything in any number of formats. Indeed, it could be argued that there’s no longer any need to venture out from behind our computer screens. But while we can all appreciate the value of online investigation, few would deny the much richer experience of going to visit a place of interest and of talking to and learning from the people who have the knowledge and experience that you seek. Scottish Government recognises this and has renewed funding for a further year of the Community Learning Exchange.


  • Big numbers

    In 2003, the UK wide umbrella body for development trusts had one member in Scotland – Carluke Development Trust. Working on a hunch that Carluke was unlikely to be the only community in Scotland with a development trust or at least with the aspiration to have one, the first tentative steps were taken to form a Scotland wide body – DTAS. Fourteen years on and the steady stream of communities choosing to take more control of their own affairs shows no sign of slowing. Every three years, DTAS carries out a survey of members. Some big numbers in this infographic.


  • Islands stand firm with EU

    For those who choose life on Scotland’s islands, it must require some kind of trade-off – dealing with the particular challenges of living in remote locations in order to enjoy the most spectacular of settings surrounded by sea. Many of these challenges are common to all islands and for some years now, the Scottish Islands Federation has been linking with other island networks around Europe to build a collective voice in Brussels. Last month’s signing of the Smart Islands Declaration signals another example of what Scotland stands to lose when Brexit really does become Brexit.


Policy talk

  • Institutional anchors

    Since Scottish Community Alliance was formed, we’ve tried to promote the concept of community anchor organisations and the key role that they play in leading community development and local regeneration. An interesting adaptation of this anchor idea has been imported from rust belt America by Preston City Council in a last ditch attempt to breathe new life into its ailing local economy. A wide number of anchor institutions operating within the community – hospitals, police, FE college and university etc – have been identified and concerted pressure has been applied to refocus their collective spending power. It seems to be working.

  • More than sport

    For many people, sport is about elite athletes performing at a level which, while entertaining, offers little in the way of real encouragement to take part.  But scratch below the surface and a very different story starts to emerge. While elite sport may grab the headlines it is only one, relatively small part, of a much wider and complex picture. Community run sport is where the vast majority of the action takes place and the motivations that lie behind it extend way beyond the sporting activity itself. In fact the ‘sport’ is almost incidental. New research tries to pull this together.   


  • Debate and challenge is important

    Scottish Government’s 3 year action plan to support the growth and development of social enterprise was launched a fortnight ago. The plan contains 92 separate actions – some costed over three years, with others of a more short term nature. The plan is well thought through and ambitious in its scope. But with so many new developments being funded, it’s vital that a level of healthy debate and challenge is maintained within the sector so that unintentional (or even intentional) drift doesn’t take place. A few people, including myself, became a bit exercised about an example of this last week.


  • Flow of guidance

    The sheer range of issues that need to be considered when developing a community building can be overwhelming. With ever increasing numbers of communities entering the fray, it’s as well that the support for this type of enterprise is coming thick and fast. COSS has published an array of help sheets and guidance and 30,000 downloads in the past year stand as testimony to the demand. But there’s always room for more. Longstanding support body, CADISPA have recently distilled their many years of experience into a basic guide for community groups. Should be worth a download.


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...