Community-led initiatives in Scotland
Numbers and Organisation of Community-Led Initiatives in Scotland
The Scottish Community Alliance, officially constituted in 2010, connects 20 national and regional networks of community-based initiatives and projects under a shared vision of reinvigorating local democracy in order to create a more sustainable and inclusive society by empowering communities to take action on local issues. According to its website, its members represent organisations with well over 100,000 individual members, which employ 5,500 paid staff and 20,000 volunteers, own or manage 250,000 hectares of land and hundreds of buildings and generate a combined annual income of over £600 million.
The Alliance is made up of the following networks of community-led initiatives:
- Community Energy Scotland
- Community Health Exchange
- Community Land Scotland
- Community Resources Network Scotland
- Community Transport Association
- Community Woodlands Association
- Development Trusts Association Scotland
- Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
- Nourish Scotland
- Planning Democracy
- Rural Housing Scotland
- Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society
- Scottish Communities Climate Action Network
- Scottish Communities for Health & Wellbeing
- Scottish Islands Federation
- Scottish League of Credit Unions
- Scottish Men's Sheds Association
- Senscot (Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland)
- Social Firms Scotland
- Arts Scotland.
The Alliance has developed a collective vision underpinned by four key principles:
- Local by Default
- Equality and Fairness
The Scottish Communities Climate Action Network formed out of a consultation process on barriers to community action on climate change, supported by the Scottish Climate Challenge Fund during 2010 and 2012. Formed in 2012, tts members include well over 60 community initiatives of diverse kinds, along with numerous associate members working in support of community initiatives.
Climate Change Vision: http://www.scottishcommunitiescan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Vision-for-Scotland-in-2024v1.pdf climate change vision for Scotland in 2024] according to members of the community sector (2014).
Transition in Scotland
Scotland has operated its own national coordination structure or hub since 2010, when funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund supported operation of Transition Scotland Support. This ceased operation as a legal entity following cessation of funding in 2013-14, but maintained an active web presence and in 2018 became the national Transition hub for Scotland. Transition Scotland and many Scottish Transition initiatives are also part of the broader Scottish Communities and Climate Action Network (SCCAN), which was among the ECOLISE founder members.
Barriers Faced by Community-Led Initiatives in Scotland
Interviews with a range of key stakeholders conducted during the TESS project in 2015 and 2016 revealed that, despite relatively high levels of government support, community-led initiatives in Scotland experience a strong sense of disempowerment and lack of agency resulting from highly concentrated patterns of private land ownership and very weak local government representation. According to a 2014 report by the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy in Scotland is reported to have fewer elected representatives per capita than any country in Europe, and local authorities have very low levels of fiscal or decision-making authority. In response to the effects of the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in Europe and neglect or obstruction on the part of absentee landlords, increasing numbers of local communities have taken advantage of the Land Reform Act of 2003 to bring land under community control and, in many cases, out of the restrictions of capitalist logic.
SCA report SCANN consultations
Community Energy in Scotland
Community Energy Ownership has been actively supported since2003 and the sector has seen a huge growth since 2008. Originally a subsidiary of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (the Scottish Government's economic and community development agency for large part of Scotland) from 2004 onwards, "Community Energy Scotland was incorporated on 9th November 2007 as a Company Limited by Guarantee with no share capital (Company No. SC333698) and a registered Scottish Charity (No. SC039673) (... that) provides practical help for communities on green energy development and energy conservation" and has 400 members.  The Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme is managed by Local Energy Scotland who provides advice, funding in all aspects of local, renewable energy, case studies and the CARES Toolkit guiding through the process of developing a renewable energy project.
The national support for community energy was increased in 2011, when "the Scottish Government introduced additional measures to help communities to benefit from developments in renewables and set a target of 500 MW from community and locally-owned renewable energy schemes by 2020. This target was met in 2016. and is now following a target of 1GW of community and local energy by 2020.
The Scottish Energy Strategy of 2017 names community energy as on of its six main priorities to achieve the Scottish Government’s vision for the future energy system in Scotland: “We will empower our communities, supporting the development of innovative and integrated local energy systems and networks.” While the Scottish government continues it´s support of local energy economies and regards them as “a central part of our response to the challenges presented by the transformation of Scotland’s energy system,” the rate of community energy development in Scotland has slowed considerably since 2015 due to “reduced UK incentive levels and the difficulty of securing grid connections for electricity generating projects.”
The next steps in the development of community energy in Scotland will be to expand into more densely-populated and urban areas, and to identify sustainable, replicable commercial models in order to allow strategic, larger scale project.
Isle of Eigg In a historic community buyout, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust set up by Highland Council, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and local residents bought the Isle of Eigg to ensure sustainable development of the island in 1997. Since then the population has increased and the local community is "now involved in all the major decisions that affect the island".
Collaboration with Local Government
According to the Scottish Community Alliance:
local democracy in the UK is at a low ebb (...) due to the centralist policies of national and local governments over the last 20 -30 years
The SCA notes that there are, however, many examples of community-led initiatives despite or possibly because of this democratic deficit:
The UK's elected local councillors answer to an average constituency of 2,600 voters. The equivalent constituency is 667 in Sweden, 250 in Germany and 116 in France. Local election turnout is 80% in Sweden and 70% in Germany; in the UK it runs around at 33%. All our political parties now agree that the excessive centralization of state power has damaged local democracy in Britain and that something must be done to pass power back down to people and communities".
- http://www.localpeopleleading.co.uk/about/. Accessed October 25th 2018.
- Scottish Community Alliance, 2016. Local People Leading. A Vision for a Stronger Community Sector. Scottish Community Alliance, Edinburgh.
- http://www.scottishcommunitiescan.org.uk/about-us/background/. Accessed October 25th 2018.
- http://www.scottishcommunitiescan.org.uk/our-members/. Accessed October 25th 2018.
- https://transitionscotland.weebly.com/about.html. Accessed May 22nd 2018.
- http://www.scottishcommunitiescan.org.uk/our-members/. Accessed May 22nd 2018.
- Revell, P., Dinnie, E., 2018. Community resilience and narratives of community empowerment in Scotland. Community Development Journal. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsy038
- Commission On Strengthening Local Democracy, 2014, Effective Democracy: Reconnecting with Communities. Edinburgh: Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy.
- Shucksmith, M., 2010. Disintegrated Rural Development? Neo-endogenous Rural Development, Planning and Place-Shaping in Diffused Power Contexts: Disintegrated rural development? Sociologia Ruralis 50, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.111/j.1467-9523.2009.00497.x
- O’Hara, E. (Ed.), 2013. Europe in transition. Local communities leading the way to a low-carbon society. AEIDL
- http://www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk Accessed on June 15th 2018
- https://www.localenergy.scot. Accessed on June 19th 2018
- https://www.aeidl.eu/images/stories/pdf/transition-final.pdf. Accessed on June 19th 2018
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State of the Sector Report 2017
- https://www.localenergy.scot. Accessed on June 19th 2018
- The Scottish Government, 2017. Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland
- http://www.isleofeigg.org/ieht/community-buyout/ Accessed on June 10th 2018
- http://www.localpeopleleading.co.uk/about/. Accessed June 16th 2018.