Scotland reveals inspired attitudes to community led action

This year’s DTAS conference ‘Development Trusts – Doing the Business’ brought together over 200 people from the Development Trust movement across Scotland. The Development Trusts themselves are largely made up of volunteers and the sheer amount of work these people put in and the successes they are achieving is incredible, especially in these times of doom and gloom! I wanted to share some of my thoughts from my two days in Cumbernauld.

There is a disconnect between different aspects of community led regeneration work in Scotland. DTAS members called for more integrated funding streams which allow links between their areas of work (e.g. local jobs and health) as well as a more holistic approach from government. Concerns were raised that Community Empowerment and Architecture and Design are being dealt with by different parts of government without effective communication. The question is, how can these departments be encouraged to collaborate to produce a coherent direction for community led regeneration to follow?

In order for regeneration to be successful it must be “not just community involvement or participation, but community led”, as affirmed by conference speaker Alex Neil, MSP Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment. Mr Neil realised he was preaching to the converted when speaking at the conference but it is encouraging to know that those in power in Scotland are committed to our approach. There is a huge amount of respect and admiration for the work Development Trusts are doing and an awareness that they are well placed to be leaders and anchors for transforming lives and environments locally.

Positive, exciting and innovative community projects are going on all over Scotland, despite the turbulent economic and policy climate. Specifically, I heard from Gigha Heritage Trust and Govanhill Baths Community Trust who have both had long-term success with a community driven approach to improving their neighbourhoods.

In our final plenary discussion on High Streets and Town Centres, the focus was on how to redefine the town centre’s role and present High Streets as more than a place for shopping. It was agreed that all too often, discussions around neighbourhood improvement are dominated by professional voices who don’t necessarily know what’s best for the community as a whole. This link between People and Place ties in with our debate series which will kick of in Scotland in October. With the debates, we hope provide a balanced view of the issues around placemaking and add to and enrich some of the discussions we started at this conference