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29th June 2016

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this entire Brexit affair has been the absence of any plan for what should happen next. Take back control was the simple yet compelling slogan that may have won the referendum but ironically, whichever way you look, it is a complete loss of control that is most apparent. Referenda may not make for efficient government but they undoubtedly engage citizens in ways that general elections don’t get near. Many political commentators now assess last week’s slender majority to be more a measure of widespread disenchantment across England and Wales with the country’s political elites, than a considered wish to leave the European Union. If it is even a remote possibility that so many people would choose to use their vote simply to hit back at a system they no longer have faith in, we’ve surely arrived at some kind of tipping point.  When combined with the markedly different outcomes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the challenge facing whoever steps into that gaping hole at the heart of British politics suddenly becomes much more complex than just wresting power back from Brussels. When you’ve lost the consent of the people, how can you take back control?

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Cut out the private profit

    The unseemly haste and enthusiasm with which cash-strapped councils and NHS embraced the concept of public private partnerships was because it seemed to solve a financial conundrum – how to build and manage much needed new facilities without having the cash to do it.  The solution - let the private sector do the heavy lifting and just pay the price (mightily) over many years. But why not tweak the financial model so that communities assume the role of developer. Instead of gilding the shareholder lily, all profits get recycled locally. One West Highland community could be onto something very big.


  • Inspection discovers hidden gems

    When schools are inspected, the inspection team take into account what’s goes on in the local community and assess how this impacts on the performance of the school and vice versa. Over the years, inspection teams have become increasingly aware of the presence of development trusts and the contribution that they make across their communities. It seemed a natural next step to explore in a little more detail how these organisations operate and so some pilot ‘inspections’ were arranged.  Suffice to say the inspectors were blown away by what they found.

  • Turning around the high street

    With some notable exceptions, small towns find it a constant struggle to retain any level of sustained economic activity. Empty shop fronts are the bane of the high street, their impact being highly contagious, eroding the confidence of other local traders. But at the same time no one is more committed to the economic and physical wellbeing of their high street than those who live and work in it. Some interesting evidence just published by DTAS to show that small amounts of cash in the right hands at the right time can produce remarkable results.


  • Bob Holman

    In 2002, Iain Duncan Smith had what he called his Easterhouse Epiphany.  He claimed that his eyes had been opened by what he witnessed on his visit to the Glasgow housing estate and that he now understood what it meant to experience poverty. Bob Holman, who died last week, and had dedicated his life to living and working on the estate, hosted that visit and claimed he was convinced that Duncan Smith was sincere in what he said. After witnessing the impact of Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, Holman’s opinion of him had changed. 


Policy talk

  • Towards a democratic society

    There’s so much churn happening across society at the moment that it’s hard to know where the solid ground is. That can be unsettling and many would just prefer to batten down the hatches in the hope that things eventually settle down.  But it also creates opportunities for new conversations to take place and different perspectives to be shared. Willie Sullivan and Martin Sime have co-authored a short pamphlet designed to provoke new thinking about how we might move towards a more democratic society.


  • Federations can fail

    In the aftermath of the EU referendum there have been many calls for Westminster to recognise how out of touch it has become with the regions of the UK and begin to move to a more federal system of government. The implicit assumption is that federal systems are more democratic because decisions are taken closer to the people. But nothing is that straightforward and the argument that federations ‘ necessarily lead to’ the whole being greater than the sum of its parts’ is neatly skewered in this article by Colin Wiles.


  • Community choices to be made

    Back in the day, when final decisions were being taken by Ministers about what would and what wouldn’t be included in the Community Empowerment legislation, there was concerted lobbying to have something on Participatory Budgeting squeezed in at the last minute. It didn’t quite make it onto the statute books but it may as well be there given the subsequent commitment from Scottish Government. Latest example of which is the launch of the £2m Community Choices Fund. £750k available to communities to run their own PB programme.


  • UN aligns with Nourish Scotland

    The protection and promotion of human rights in this country is in jeopardy because of Westminster’s determination to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Nonetheless, work goes on to monitor how well (or badly) our rights are being safeguarded by Government. Nourish Scotland, are currently giving evidence at a UN enquiry into how well the UK is ensuring our right to food is respected. Not well by all accounts.


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...