Event: Day Conference: Spiritual, Social and Political Perspectives on Land Reform and Community Buyouts in Scotland.
Chair: Dr Ian Wight.
Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Date: Saturday 12 October 2019.
Time: Registration: 9.30am-10am. Day Conference: 10am-4.30pm.
Event Description: This Day Conference will explore Spiritual and Political Perspectives on Land Reform and Community Buyouts in Scotland.
Spiritual, Social and Political Perspectives on
Land Reform and Community Buyouts in Scotland.
Date: Saturday 12 October 2019.
Time: Registration: 9.30am-10am. Day Conference: 10am-4.30pm.
Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church,
41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace, EICSP,
Scottish Charity, SC038996, www.eicsp.org
9.30am-10am: Arrival and Registration.
10am-10.10am: Introduction and Welcome: Dr Ian Wight.
10.10am-10.30am: Plenary address: Alastair Cameron, Action Porty.
How Do We Create Good Places: Porty’s Pathbreaking Bellfield Community Buyout.
The vision: “To create a community-led social hub that helps build, celebrate and support the collective and individual life of the community in a building that is fully accessible to all”. This is the first urban community right to buy in Scotland, being a buy out that is enabled by the urban Community Right to Buy (CRtB) aspect of the 2015 Community Empowerment Act which come into force in April 2016 just as the Bellfield campaign was kicking off https://www.bellfield.scot/ It is the first urban community right to buy, but not necessarily the first urban community buy out https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/03/29/vote-yes-to-community-ownership/ The new legislation enables urban communities to join rural communities in being able to claim the right to have the first go at raising the market value, and so being able to insist that places that matter to them stay in, or return to, community hands.
I'll offer my telling of the story of: how we started and why; what we're doing with the property now; where that fits in to the community needs; some of the challenges and tensions in running a project like this; and some comments about what the building means to me - which definitely has a spiritual dimension. I expect I will also manage a few words about affordable housing.
BIO: Alastair Cameron has lived in Portobello for over 30 years, and was one of the founding group of Action Porty. He retired from work with Scottish Churches Housing Action in 2018, and now is a regular volunteer at Bellfield, doing a range of activity from weekly fire alarm checks to co-ordinating the volunteer team. A member of the Quaker group that meets in the building, he is Clerk of South East Scotland Area Meeting, the body that brings together all local meetings in the area. He recently led Time for Reflection at the Scottish Parliament, explaining why Quakers are willing to face arrest for their beliefs: http://www.quakerscotland.org/news/time-reflection. He is a member of the board of Rural Housing Scotland.
10.40am-11am: Plenary address: Judy Wilkinson.
Culturing Spaces, Growing Places and Communing with the Land: Do we need individual and local community growing spaces?
How do such spaces sit within land reform and community ownership? What is needed to meet the challenges, re-kindle the visions and actually create holistic places where we live? Drawing on Patrick Geddes’ Heart~Hand~Head framing, the presentation will begin with some reflections including poems and stories about our connections with the soil, plants and place before suggesting how they may influence outcomes of the recent Scottish Land Commission’s Sustainable Growth Agreement with SEPA.
BIO: Judy Wilkinson has tended her allotment in the west end of Glasgow for over forty years. It has been a sanctuary from which she has gained food, wellbeing, companionship and spiritual growth. Awareness of these benefits has led her to write about allotments and to campaign at local and national level - through the Glasgow Allotments Forum and the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society - for land and support so that everybody in Scotland, who wishes, can cultivate, harvest and engage with their own patch of earth. She practices Tai Chi and the philosophy of Lao Tzu ‘Tao Te Ching’.
11.10am-11.30am: Tea/coffee break.
11.30am-11.50am: Plenary address: Luke Devlin.
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor: Liberation Theology and Land Reform.
The global domination system that treats people, animals and ecosystems as disposable assets is the same system that sees land as an asset to be privately owned and administered, rather than part of the ground of being itself, which constitutes a global commons. This ideology has contributed to an unsustainable model of perpetual economic growth, and an extractive culture denuding the Earth - our only home - of its ability to support life. Liberation Theology and earth-centric spiritualities have provided part of the fight-back against this, both in Scotland and internationally. Exploring, embodying and revivifying these perspectives can help provide the resilience and strong determination needed to take the massive action the Earth and its suffering peoples need for liberation and restoration.
BIO: Luke Devlin is Executive Director of the Centre for Human Ecology (www.che.ac.uk), a member of the Enough! Collective (www.enough.scot), which explores alternatives to economic growth, and a member of the Catholic Worker Movement (http://www.eurocatholicworker.org/).
12pm-12.20pm: Plenary address: John Hutchison, Patricia Jordan and Alex Farquar.
East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust – the Story so Far.
When Rio Tinto Aluminium announced in early 2016 that it intended to review its activities, it quickly became clear that an option which included a community company could form part of the solution to retain the Fort William smelter in operation, particularly if the company could act along with others that had the expertise to successfully own and operate the smelter and hydropower assets, allowing the community to derive the benefit and income from owning the land. By October 2016 this ambitious plan proved unsuccessful but the ELLCT is still engaged with the eventual purchaser, the GFG Alliance, with the full support of the Scottish Government, with a view to achieving a community land transaction. The evolution of the Trust and the subsequent negotiations in 2016 gave rise to complex issues surrounding the community’s links with the land, employment, together with local and national political perspectives - which continue today.
BIOS: John Hutchison, chair of the ELLCT, is an experienced community land activist, with a career in civil engineering and as a senior official in Highland Council involved in several campaigns. More recently, John has been a director of Community Land Scotland and has chaired various organisations such as the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, the John Muir Trust, Scottish Rural Action, the West Highland Museum Trust and West Highland College UHI.
Patricia Jordan, a director of ELLCT, has experience in small businesses, public funding and contract management. She has served on Fort William Community Council for 25 years as secretary and chair. She has a sound knowledge of the social and economic issues affecting rural communities and has been active in political campaigns. Involved with the Nevis Partnership since its inception, she is a past chair and chaired its Programme Delivery Committee, with responsibility for the £3.9m works programme. Patricia has developed close working links with, landowners, partner organisations, community groups, development agencies, government officials, MSP and MPs. She is also a Trustee of the John Muir Trust.
Alex Farquar works as sales manager in a major builders’ merchant, has a major interest in Earth and Environmental Science and is an accomplished photographer. He is currently chair of Fort William Community Council is Secretary to the Lochaber Housing Association and has served on that board for over a decade. He is also a past chair of the Nevis Partnership. He has contacts with a wide range of individuals and business throughout Lochaber.
2pm-2.40pm: Plenary address: Lesley Riddoch.
Lifting our horizons: How Scots are overcoming centuries of top-down, feudal governance, undue deference to professionals, a chronic lack of investment in social goods and the enduring expectation of being ignored. Drawing on Nordic examples and her 2013 book Blossom as well as a just-finished PhD on hutting.
BIO: Lesley Riddoch is one of Scotland’s best known commentators and broadcasters. She was assistant editor of The Scotsman in the 1990s (and editor of the Scotswoman in 1995 when female staff wrote, edited and produced the paper) & contributing editor of the Sunday Herald. She is best known for broadcasting with programmes on BBC2, Channel 4, Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland, for which she has won two Sony speech broadcaster awards. A weekly columnist for the Scotsman and National Lesley is also a regular contributor to the Guardian, Scotland Tonight and Any Questions. During the independence referendum she became a familiar figure on TV and radio making the case for Scottish self-government. She is Director of Nordic Horizons, a policy group which exchanges expertise between the Nordic nations and Scotland and has just completed a PhD supervised by Oslo and Strathclyde Universities. In 2015 she launched the Nordic House exhibition of Arctic landscape art and photographs, which is still touring Scotland. Lesley founded the feminist magazine Harpies and Quines in 1991, was a Trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust, which led to the successful community buyout in 1997, founded the charity Africawoman in 2001 and co-founded the Our Land Festival which campaigns for land reform in Scotland in 2015. She wrote Riddoch on the Outer Hebrides in 2007, Blossom – what Scotland needs to Flourish in 2013 and co-edited McSmorgasbord -- a book examining Scotland’s possible future relations with Europe using templates from the Nordic nations in 2016 – all with Luath Press. She produces a weekly podcast accessible via www.lesleyriddoch.co.uk or on twitter @lesleyriddoch
2.50pm-3.10pm: Plenary address: Steven Tolson.
Rules versus Discretion and Giantism are holding back community capabilities.
The principle around community empowerment is, as the term suggests, the passing of power to communities to enable them to collectively achieve their aspirations and functioning. This might take the form of communities working out their own plans for their place, or designing, building and operating projects or providing services.
Various philosophers of the enlightenment explored how one might achieve ‘common good’ and recently the Scottish Land Commission has been lobbying the Scottish Government to promote ‘public interest led development’. The question arises as to who should be the promoter of public interest led development? One has to be careful not to interchange the needs of ‘community’ with the needs of ‘society’. Anyone living in the UK for the last 50 years should recognise the difference between an individual and a collective focus. Individual values and functioning have become mainstream with co-operative approaches somewhat falling out of fashion to corporate giantism.
While markets embraced giantism, Scotland has maintained a strong municipal approach and culture in providing for its people. However, community empowerment now requires the traditional patrimonial state approach to adopt a somewhat new position. But how good are we at embracing change? While communities are keen to see community empowerment put into action there remain barriers, with evidence of some being reluctant to pass over power.
In the last 20 years we have seen increasing rule-based processes dominate public procurement and other procedures. The clipboard approach of strict centralised rule compliance has diminished common sense and the word ‘discretion’ is an anathema to the bureaucrat. Arguably, ‘populists’ have exploited the notion of unaccountable centralised establishments that have exercised control through anti-democratic practices. Professor Raguram Rajan in his recent book the ‘Third Pillar’ argues that the polarisation of power between market and the state has left communities behind. Rajan argues that for society to prosper there’s a need to correct this imbalance and provide the necessary ground that allows communities to function. Simply making policy and passing legislation is not enough for communities to function. To be empowered needs more than a route map; it requires resource and capacity to fuel action. Empowerment should not be simply about passing the power ‘ball’ to someone else. It does require co-operative action from state participants who need to move from an “I know what’s good for you” municipal approach to a more empathetic way of supporting communities to achieve their own capabilities.
BIO: Steven Tolson is a Chartered Surveyor and visiting academic who has recently authored papers on public interest led development, community asset transfers and the valuation of vacant and derelict land. He has advised a range of community organisations and is a trustee of Bannockburn Housing Trust.
3.20pm-3.40pm: Plenary address: Donna McArdle.
Bridgend Inspiring Growth – A Community of Benefits.
Bridgend Farmhouse is one of Scotland's first Urban Asset transfers, having dismantled its original charity status after 6 years in 2018 to launch shares to become - another first in the UK - a community benefit society with charitable status enabling it to be a truly community owned and run nurturing space and place.
It hosts a wide and diverse community for people of all ages, from 5 years old to 85, and from all walks of life. Its main emphasis is on reducing social isolation and encouraging people to engage in meaningful activity whether that be drop-in arts and crafts, cooking, eating, growing, woodwork, building an eco-bothy, cycling, forest skills, community meals as well as hosting much more.
BIO: Donna McArdle is the Development manager at Bridgend Farmhouse and has run the building since it opened its doors last year. She set up and runs The Real Junk Food Project Edinburgh, is a Chefs Alliance member and has run a number of mainly food based communities and social enterprises in and around Edinburgh. She is a massive supporter of access to good food, demystifying cooking to the masses and a well renowned food activist.
3.50pm-4.10pm: Plenary address: Dr Ian Wight.
Staking Our Place in a Post-Feudal Scotland: Towards a Spirited Landed Citizenry: Owning it anew - on our insides and on our outsides.
Communing with a vengeance – more than money can buy. Forming, deforming, reforming and transforming - consciously. Enacting our agency in communion. Stewarding a neo-civics. Making a place we can all call home. Achieving convivial interdependence. The prospects for a spirited Scottish landed citizenry.
Bio: Ian Wight PhD FCIP GTB, raised in a Scottish public housing scheme, is a retired Canadian professor of planning currently re-firing in his native land – wondering, pondering and beyonding on several fronts, including placemaking (as wellbeing by design), conviviality (living well together), and neo-civics (as a pragmatic democratics).
4.20pm: Summing up: Dr Ian Wight.
NB: There will be no refund if you cancel your booking.
Cost: £10/£8 (Concessions)/£3 (Students). For a Registration Form: