Following the Strathbungo Society’s submission to the proposed Bill (for background see bungo blog 31st December) an analysis of the responses was published at the beginning of January http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/01/9545
The Report is described as an independent analysis of all 447 responses to the proposals. Unfortunately, the consultants – or was it the commissioning editors in the Government? – have taken a narrow view of their task and appear to have confined their analysis to the responses to the questions asked. While the stated intention of the Bill is “to strengthen opportunities for communities to take independent action to achieve their own goals” the actual questions asked were quite restricted in scope. In the Strathbungo Society response therefore we tried to raise some fundamental questions about the scope of the Bill – for example, whether it could empower communities like ours to require organisations like Network Rail to do things beneficial to the area, in our case things like maintaining the pedestrian bridge and managing the vegetatation on the railway embankment to enhance our environment. These points appear to have been totally ignored in the consultation summary.
The Bill has been heralded by some as a means of giving urban communities some of the rights that rural communities have under the Land Reform Act, including purchase of property which is up for sale. This is by no means simple as is illustrated by the current attempts by the community in Durness, Sutherland, to buy the land at Cape Wrath, which is owned by the Lighthouse Board but which is wanted by the Ministry of Defence for military training purposes. However, in terms of the Community Engagement and Empowerment Bill, this report just confirms that a very narrow view of empowerment is being taken which basically conflicts with its stated intention and limits the scope of the Bill to giving Local Communities more power in relation to Local Authorities – even though Local Authorities are one of the few public authorities that local communities can influence through the electoral process. This seems a missed opportunity.
Due to its focus on Local Authorities, the consultation asked a fair number of very technical questions and not surprisingly this has provoked a wide range and variety of answers and views . I found it very hard to conclude much from the summary and this means it is very hard at this stage to see how the consultation might inform the drafting of the proposed Bill. The draft Bill is due to be issued for further consultation in the summer – more on the Blog then.
From a Strathbungo perspective, the Society is quoted in the body of the report, which could – somewhat stretching the point as it is unclear how many people read these things – be claimed as good publicity. Unfortunately, the quote is credited with supporting and saying something it doesn’t. The Strathbungo chairperson, Laura Moodie, has written to the Bill Team at the Scottish Government to correct this but for anyone who is interested the quote is on P75 paragraph 4.64 and our actual response is at Community Engagement and Empowerment Bill Final Response On the local front, while Glasgow City Council and NHS Glasgow and Clyde responded it is interesting that the Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, which is meant to co-ordinate planning by Public Authorities in each Local Authority area, did not. . Its hard not to draw conclusions!