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May 18th 2016

The idea that better outcomes will occur if communities have more control over local affairs has effectively become an article of faith. It’s what drives much of today’s community empowerment bandwagon and more besides. And not without good reason.  Just ask Scotland’s growing movement of community landowners what it feels like to wake up to a world where the land under their feet is their land. And it is that feeling, that highly subjective emotional response, which seems to generate such a potent release of creative energy and a commitment to a common cause.  And yet the evidence we have to substantiate this is mostly anecdotal, relatively poorly researched and consequently, is still not an easy sell to the sceptics.  ‘It just happens’ doesn’t really cut it.  There have been numerous attempts over the years to find a way of measuring the intangibles that flow from community empowerment but to date with little success.  And crunch time beckons. When more communities start requesting public assets at below market value, or to have public services procured on the basis of Local by Default, we’ll need hard data - not mushy sentiment – as back up. Come on, academia, let's be having you.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Leithers Don't Litter

    We have a perverse attitude towards litter. Given the chance, everyone would surely opt to live in a litter free environment but while it may be anathema in many European countries to drop litter, in Scotland we do - and in ever increasing quantities. A new report released by Keep Scotland Beautiful highlights that an already bad situation is actually getting worse.  Although Councils have a part to play in all this, everyone needs to take responsibility for sorting out this blight.  And many communities do - but few to the extent of one committed couple from Leith. 


  • Coastal communities come together

    Last week saw folk from communities dotted around Scotland’s coastline gather for the first time to share their concerns about the quality of their marine environment. To those of us who rarely venture out to sea, it takes a bit of imagination to consider what’s happening so far beneath its surface. But for these communities, their whole existence and future sustainability is inextricably connected to the sea and many of them are becoming deeply worried by what they observe.  This lovely film from Fair Isle tells its own story.

  • An unewesual Festival

    The season of Festivals is almost upon us and in recent years not only has the number proliferated but the variety of Festival on offer has grown too.  If you look carefully enough at the Festival calendar there’s something there for everyone. Festivals are an important tool for attracting visitors who bring not just their cash but in many cases the offer of some help. The community on the remote Orkney island of North Ronaldsay have taken this concept a little further than most festival organisers. But then they do have some very special sheep.

  • Secure future for Ecology Centre

    The community of Kinghorn in Fife was an early adopter of the right to buy legislation. KCLA took a long term view and submitted multiple registrations for different parcels of land on the basis that all could be potentially strategically important to the community in the future. Many groups have benefited from their foresight – not least the long standing community enterprise, The Ecology Centre. After a long and at times difficult journey, a new Centre has been built on land that they now own. Their future is finally secure.  

    See our most recent policy paper in the Local People Leading series : Land

Policy talk

  • Beyond the easy headlines

    So now we know how the Holyrood elections stacked up in terms of numbers of seats won and lost. And since then, each party has tried to spin their own gloss on the result. But scratch below the surface numbers and there are lots of different, untold stories waiting to be discovered. Michael Gray, writing in The National, wonders why the media has failed to apply itself in their pursuit. He argues that Scottish politics is a much more complex and multi-layered picture than the one we are being presented with by the mainstream media.

  • Local Govt but not as we know it

    As the dust settles on the Scottish Parliament elections, attention turns to which parts of which manifestos will shape the new minority administration’s programme for government. There must be some interesting conversations going on behind closed doors. The extent to which these will consider the future shape of local government, and whether new energy can be injected into local democracy is going to be particularly interesting. Martin Sime at SCVO offers some interesting thoughts on what the future might hold.

  • The collective holds more appeal

    It’s one of the biggest challenges for those who try to mobilise public support for action on climate change. How to move from accepting, intellectually, the case to change one's behaviour in order to save the planet, to the point where actions take over from words. Some research, just published, might shed some new light on this long standing conundrum. It suggests that campaigners should shift the emphasis away from making appeals to an individual’s sense of personal responsibility and instead encourage a more collective perspective on the issue.

  • Welcome to the Fun Palace

    There’s something about the name – Fun Palace – that gives the game away.  The blurb describes it as a spot of culture mixed with a dash of science in a laboratory of fun. Having fun seems to be compulsory and these palaces can happen anywhere just so long as it's free to enter and run by and for local people.  What’s not to like? Over time, an international movement of these fun palaces has evolved. Govanhill Baths is hosting a workshop on 2nd June for any communities interested in creating one.

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...