Much is made by some of the “Usual Suspects” (our local Community Councillors for those not familiar with Gurn terminology) about the direction of Scottish Government travel with the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill that is going through the Holyrood machine at the moment. They feel that this is the direction of travel and they wish Nairn to be in the vanguard as powers are returned to communities after over two decades, locally anyway, of movement in the other direction. The same thinking permeates the organisation Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (NICE). Could anyone hoping for a quick transformation in the short term be bitterly disappointed however? The stated aims of the Bill are very laudable and will resonate deeply with many Nairnshire residents aggrieved with the status quo. So it is to the Community Empowerment Bill and the concept of localism it could potentially deliver that those fighting for a better deal for Nairn look to with more than just a glimmer of hope.
To get a flavour of the stated aims of the Community Empowerment Bill some Gurnites may wish to read this Scottish Government web page.
One of our usual suspects recommended the Scottish Community Alliance newsletter to this observer some time ago. You just have to sign up on line for the monthly e-mail. It contains much usual information about how some communities have set out to deal with problems facing them – thinking and acting locally to create new positive outcomes for themselves. The SCA is quite a formidable network of grass routes organisations and you can read about them here – “Local people leading” is one of their slogans.
Thus It was with some disappointment that this observer read the latest missive from the SCA, it seems very downbeat about the prospects for significant progress for communities from the Bill. It says:
“A well-worn philosophy from the world of business says that the way to manage expectations is to under-promise and over-deliver. An early assessment of the draft Community Empowerment Bill suggests that Scottish Government holds no truck with such Machiavellian ways – in fact quite the reverse. Initial reaction to the proposals has been underwhelming. Even the Minister responsible, Derek Mackay MSP, in his Q&A session at last week’s Senscot conference, suggested we might have expected more from the Bill. So why promise so much at the outset and deliver so little? It’s such a marked contrast that you almost wonder whether some reverse psychology is at work – massively over-promise (to stir up debate) but deliver just enough (and no more) to whet the appetite for more in the future. We always knew the idea of communities being on the receiving end of ‘the largest transfer of power since devolution’ would meet with fierce opposition– particularly from those who hold so much sway over what communities currently do. So is this Bill simply intended as a minor staging post in a much longer journey that the Scottish Government wants us to travel? Now that would be truly Machiavellian.”