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17th May 2017

The unspoken rule of public funding is never to bite the hand that feeds you.   And make no mistake, at a time of continuing austerity, our sector is being particularly well fed by the Scottish Government. What other area of public policy is underpinned by a 10 year growth strategy with a fully costed action plan for the next three years?  So it may just be a measure of the sector’s growing maturity and self confidence that a number of leading lights from around the country felt able to have more than a gentle nibble at that hand during last week’s Senscot AGM.  Some important things were said which all too often go unsaid. For instance, our much vaunted ‘ecosystem’ of support is considered nowhere near as effective as it should be. And many of those working at the coalface in our communities feel disconnected from where the big decisions about their futures are being made.  And despite claims that the Strategy is a model of ‘co-production’, many are utterly bewildered as to how some things found their way into it. These voices of dissent need to be heard as the Strategy moves forward. Usual suspects should stand back.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Value for money

    It seems no time at all since those early pioneers of community energy took their first faltering steps towards a vision of harnessing the multiple benefits of renewable energy for the common good. If any of them had known how complex and hard that journey was going to be, they probably would never have started.  While we haven’t come anywhere close to reaching the true potential of community owned energy, very significant gains have been secured nonetheless. Gains that perhaps weren’t predicted at the outset – like those about to be enjoyed by the people of Neilston.


  • Those SMART folk from Fintry

    One of the earliest community energy pioneers were known as the Fintry Four - four residents of a Stirlingshire community with the foresight and negotiating skills to secure a significant share for their community in a private windfarm.  Acquiring that stake in the windfarm was just step one in a long term plan to turn the Fintry village into one of the most energy efficient, low carbon communities in the country. Their latest energy innovation was launched recently. This is one SMART community. 


  • What the evidence says

    A recurring theme across a number of policy discussions and debates – particularly planning, community empowerment and local governance – surrounds the potential role that local neighbourhood planning could play. In England the Localism Act 2011 created the opportunity for communities to draw up and adopt neighbourhood plans. With over 2000 communities choosing to pursue this option, there’s sufficient evidence on the ground to begin to draw some conclusions. A new book, ‘Localism and Neighbourhood Planning: power to the people’ does just that. 


  • Filled with art

    Cyclist swerve to avoid them, motorists curse their suspension-jarring effect and local authority roads departments dread the cost of filling them. No one likes a pothole. But, as with life, it’s what we do about them that truly marks us out. Which is why one man – an artist now known throughout his community as the ‘pothole guy’ - has caused a bit of stir on the internet for his unique approach to dealing with this everyday nuisance. Maybe it will inspire others to follow suit.


Policy talk

  • Wikitribune

    Lately it’s become difficult to recognise what is and isn't news.  The proliferation of fake news, alternative facts and the overt manipulation of the mainstream media have all had a thoroughly destabilising effect. On the plus side we now have a flourishing alternative media that seems to be gaining traction with the general public but once we lose faith in previously ‘trusted’ news outlets, it becomes hard to trust anything. Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia renown, reckons he’s got the answer.


  • Slovenia shows the way

    Slovenia – the most economically vibrant of the Slavic countries with higher growth rates than the UK – is nonetheless a small country, 20% less landmass than Highland region.  But while local government in the Highlands is administered by one Council, Slovenia has 211 municipalities with considerable autonomy over revenues and expenditure. Although turnout at our recent local elections was up by 8% we shouldn’t misconstrue that as health restored to local democracy. As former MSP, Carolyn Leckie opines, the need for to rethink local democracy is as urgent as ever.


  • Shed spread

    One of the chief reasons the pension industry is in such disarray is that the actuaries and accountants who designed the schemes forgot to factor in one critical assumption - that advances in medicine will mean that we are likely to live longer. Apparently the pension industry assumed an average life expectancy in retirement of just 10 years. But medical advances are only part of the picture. People still need to have fulfilling lives after they stop working. And men in particular sometimes struggle with that. Thankfully, and somewhat under the radar, the shedding movement is spreading. 


  • Unstitched

    The Great Tapestry of Scotland, depicting 12,000 years of Scottish history, and created by 160 groups of stitchers working in communities throughout the country is a community arts endeavour on an epic scale.  Two years ago, one of the panels was stolen while on display in Kirkcaldy. Undeterred by this pointless act of vandalism, the stolen panel’s original team of stitchers set about working on a replacement which was finally completed a fortnight ago. Last week, a panel from another great community tapestry project -  the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry was stolen. What is it with tapestries?


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...