Are you a member of a Community Council? Would it be helpful to you to be able to make contact with / have conversations with members of other Community Councils?
Since the inception of Community Councils some 40 years ago, there has been little opportunity to make contact with other Community Councils, let alone discover whether there are other folk out there who are dealing with similar issues to your own. There are over 1000 Community Councils in Scotland. Finding the one which might have similar circumstances to your own is somewhat akin to scientists searching for an equivalent to planet Earth somewhere in the universe.
There was once an organisation called the Association of Scottish Community Councils. Unfortunately, just as it was finding its feet and beginning to fulfilling its remit, the Scottish Government reduced its financial support, rendering it nonviable. Sadly, in the summer of 2012, it died.
Somewhere within the Scottish Government (it’s difficult to identify exactly where!) moves were made to provide a replacement supporting structure for Community Councils. The only apparent tangible outcome is a web site (http://www.communitycouncils.org.uk/index.html ) which went live in November last year. It’s very pretty. It may help folk who are starting a Community Council (or new members who don’t quite know what it is they’ve joined!), but it does not engage or encourage communication between Community Councils, or even with its anonymous host. (It seems ‘someone’ has just noticed its morbidity and has recently posted three things: a very dry résumé of the Community Empowerment Bill; some information about Scotland’s Towns Partnership Town Centre Toolkit; and a set of opinion pieces about ‘Creating a Fairer Scotland’.)
At the beginning of May this year, a small miracle happened. A man called Michael set up a Facebook page for Community Councillors called Scotland’s Community Councillors Chewin’ the Fat. It took off like wildfire and now has over 300 members. It’s a public group so everyone can read posts, but posting is restricted to Community Councillors. Plenty of fat is being chewed and we’re all discovering the similarities and strange anomalies that exist between different Local Authorities. Lots of topics have been discussed, advice sought and given, and a sense of community and common purpose is being established across the country. If you are associated with a Community Council, do have a browse. Michael has set up another Facebook page called Join the craik with Scotland’s community councillors. This group is open to everyone who is interested in Scotland’s third tier of democracy whether or not they have anything to do with a Community Council. There is also now an associated web site (http://www.scotlands-community-councillors.org.uk ). Thanks Michael. You achieved in a few weeks what the Scottish Government couldn’t manage in years!
Author Sue Hamilton Community Councillor and PD Trustee