I’m often engaged by articles on the Scottish Community Alliance fortnightly ‘briefings’. It’s easy to link to individual articles. However, I’ve not found a way to link to the introductions. So I shamelessly reproduce the introduction to the most recent briefing: it ticks all the boxes on my pro-hyperlocal democracy bias. While some community councils may not be ready to play fuller roles just now, that is no reason to not aspire to do more. As Angus Hardie puts it…
It’s always affirming to learn of fresh research into our field. So I was very excited to receive Katrin Prager‘s and Kirsty Holstead‘s Community Councils in Aberdeenshire: Achievements and Challenges.
(I wrote this post on the train this morning but didn’t get a decent wifi connection until I arrived at my hotel.)
The digiCC workshop roadshow is on the road again! Today I’m travelling to Elgin so I can co-host tomorrow’s workshop for CC and Registered Tenant Organisations members from Moray and nearby LAs. I’m very grateful to co-hosts Tracey Rae and Alison McLaughlin of Moray Council for all they and their colleagues have done to make this event work.
My better half pointed out recently that I described the Scottish Government as the top/first level, and Community Councils as the bottom/third level. This is interesting for two reasons:
- it omits the UK government entirely
- I automatically relegate hyperlocal democracy to third place.
Partly so I can get it clear in my own head, here are the themes I’m currently working on, and the other work I’d also like to do if I ever get the chance!
The Scottish Government’s ‘Fairer Scotland’ national discussion has been running for a few months now. As the Scottish Community Alliance put it, this is an attempt to crowdsource policy. There’s a series of events around Scotland, at which the Scottish Government ‘wants to work with a broad mix of people across the country to prioritise practical steps that can be taken to create a fairer Scotland’.
But as well as talking directly with people across Scotland, the SG also wants to work with those who (should) most closely represent communities: community councillors. As Marco Biagi (Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment) put it, key questions are
- what issues matter most to you as a community councillor?
- what do you think needs to be done to help community councils create a fairer Scotland?
- how can your community council play a role in helping to shape Scotland’s future?
Context for the Fairer Scotland Event – Marco Biagi MSP
Mr Biagi said a lot of things I liked to hear. He quoted the calculation from our 2012 report (PDF – see page 5) that arguably only 4% of Scotland’s electorate could vote in recent CC elections – the others were all uncontested due to lack of candidates. He is clearly interested in better mechanisms for local democracy and social justice (a priority for the SG), and looked forward to delegates’ views. He noted that one had come from Oban (100 miles each way) and appreciated that CC members are volunteers who may well have taken the day off work to attend this event.
This presentation was given by Mark McAteer, who stood in for Colin Mair, the IS’ chief executive. (Mr Mair was suddenly unable to attend due for personal reasons.) His main themes seemed to be
- because public-sector cash is going to get tighter, things will change and CCs will be asked to do more. (I’ve already encountered this when an Edinburgh Council staffer asked Leith Central CC what health and social care information it gathers in its community. It doesn’t – firstly no-one asked it to. Secondly, how can 8 people gather accurate information on 20,000 residents?)
- CCs need to lead, to take opportunities (not wait to be given them), and earn the right to represent.
Workshop 1 – What are the issues that matter most to you as a community councillor?
This was the start of the fun parts for me. My table had delegates from Argyll & Bute, Fife, West Dunbartonshire, Stirling, and Glasgow. (One asked me not to report her CC, so I’ve omitted CC, delegates’ and the facilitator’s names.) Here’s the issues we came up with. Continue reading
Q&A session with Marco Biagi and Mark McAteer
Delegates were asked to pose questions for this session. Continue reading