Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

How can we use Community Empowerment and National Planning Framework 4 to restore Local Democracy? – Alastair Noble

Central autocratic control is not working. We need to go back to our old Scottish roots and refine our historic belief in the Common Good and the Old Parish caring model.

Scotland has always functioned best when the county town and its rural hinterland have been working properly. More people in Scotland still live in these areas than in our cities. It is widely accepted that the city model has dominated recent Scottish politics and it clearly is not working.

Community Empowerment is the new buzz word, but what does that mean?

Can the community led Local Place Planning process deliver power back to the people?

Probably the most important learning from Covid is about the importance of the individual and their community. We are all dependent on our family, relatives, friends, and communities when the going gets rough.

The Italian Government’s response to Covid is to plan for 3-400 Community Hospitals, because put simply Big Hospitals did not work.

Sweden believed in the common sense of its own people and trusted them to be sensible and get the balance right.

What has driven us so far away from our Scottish roots?

We seem to have believed Politicians have divine properties and Specialist Consultants know all! Well, we know now that is not true!

So, what next?

NPF4 is all about our own community (old Parish thinking) deciding what is best for our locality and prioritising infrastructure and our sustainable environment. No longer can landowners and developers simply overload our community with new houses. It is up to the community to decide how we want to ensure the quality and sustainability of our own community.

Because each locality has a different starting point and differing infrastructure need, each must come up with its own tailored plan/delivery mechanism.

We know that individuals who are well educated, well housed, in good relationships, good jobs, happy, eating and drinking sensibly have better health outcomes than people who do not have these benefits. I keep repeating the Greeks worked out the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Model several thousand years ago.

If we really do deliver a community led Local Place Plan in all our natural localities, I think that will allow each natural community to come up with the right solution for its priorities and spend. Because each locality has a different starting point and differing infrastructure need the plan must be tailored to their priorities. One size will never fit all!

We keep hearing about austerity, but we are wasting vast amounts of money-I do not need to rehearse them all. Our Chief Medical Officer in his latest Annual Report says at least 20% of current Health spend produces no health benefit.

We know the equivalent of 2 District General Hospitals are full every day of delayed discharges. Our incredible reaction to that is to spend more -rather than spend wisely.

Can we now have the sensible discussions, envisaged by Canon Kenyon Wright at the time of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and allow each locality to sort out its own problems, prioritise Fair Share Locality Budgets to make sure we get value for money within what will always be a fixed budget. Money does not grow on trees!

In summary we now are moving in the right direction. We have to take back local accountability and responsibility. Big Brother has never worked-Putin, Trump, Johnson spring to mind.

I think we have some correct tools in place and building on that trust in our people we can deliver a green sustainable, positive and above all optimistic future for our future generations. What is in the Common Good and how to make best use of our Common Good Assets must give us a realistic basis to deliver the future we all want.

The more   we can involve all our community in this process-the more likely we are to get it right.

Dr Alastair Noble is chair of Nairn community council

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