Since June last year the Fairer Scotland conversation has been going strong throughout the country. People have had their say on how they perceive Scotland to be fairer and what has to change to help us all achieve that goal. We encourage people to continue this conversation during this difficult time following the EU Referendum.
Our next step is to publish an Fairer Scotland Action Plan during summer 2016. More of this to follow soon.
A New Future for Social Security in Scotland
On the same day we published the summary report we also published ‘Creating A Fairer Scotland: A New Future for Social Security in Scotland’. This is the first look at how Scotland will build a new Social Security system for the people of Scotland and to ensure that at the heart of it all is to be fair and treats everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Danny Boyle (Parliamentary and Policy Officer – BEMIS Scotland).
Previously as part of the Fairer Scotland conversations BEMIS had submitted a blog encouraging diverse communities to stay politically engaged in post referendum Scotland regardless of their political allegiances.
The truth is that ‘Fairer Scotland’ equality issues, and in particular ‘Race Equality’ and all that that entails will only ever be adequately enhanced by experienced, informed, diverse citizens pro-actively shaping the communities, sectors and services in which our lives evolve and interact.
Scotland’s future is a collage of identities, expertise, history, oral tradition and cultural characteristics. In this context, the sub-heading for a Fairer Scotland could read ‘enhanced by our diversity – combined by our humanity’.
As we strive to create a ‘Fairer Scotland’ sometimes it is important to stop, reflect and allow ourselves some time to consider where we are at this moment in time? The world is in the midst of volatile and often overwhelming global challenges.
Domestically our most vulnerable communities face a decade of further austerity and an onslaught of financial responsibility they neither sought, created nor benefit from.
Since the devastating events in Paris the veneer of ‘tolerance’ has been lifted for some people who have used this social trauma as an excuse to vent their own deep-seated prejudice, bigotry and racism.
The hard truth however is that in reality the ‘Scotland’ they think they live in and are defending has never existed, apart from in their own heads, ignorance and bile cultivated by their own cultural deficit.
Scotland has been shaped by millennia of global influence. Our national instrument, the Bagpipes, are most likely from Ancient Mesopotamia (Modern day Syria and Iraq), the time signatures which drive our music are shared by India, Pakistan and many others international communities.
Arabic has been a spoken language in Scotland since the 12th century, why? Because Christian bishops decreed that you could only fully appreciate the sentiments of the bible if you could speak a ‘Semitic’ language.
In short the global influence on our day to day lives in Scotland is profound. The direct influence of countless generations of migration underpinned by intangible cultural heritage.
Over the coming 10 weeks we will go full circle and the global cultural characteristics of Scotland will come alive is a stramash of diverse community celebrations focussing on St. Andrews weekend, The Winter Festival season and Burns day. The 65 diverse local community events taking place as part of the BEMIS / Scottish Government led Year of Food and Drink and Winter Festival celebrations represent Scotland’s past, present and future.
Domestically, a Fairer Scotland is not merely about initiating new policies and structures but rather about enhancing and advancing the rights and responsibilities of the diverse communities, collectively and individually.
Part of Scotland has always been – and is eternally – African, South Asian, Middle and Far Eastern, European and all the diversity of culture, language, religion and beliefs inherent around the globe.
In relation to a Fairer Scotland we should be:
comfortable recognising these influences on Scotland and retrospectively Scotland’s place and influence in the world, for better or worse
brave enough to acknowledge, in a spirit of reconciliation and acknowledgement the influence of Empire in Scotland and Scotland’s place in the Empire.
Domestically, a Fairer Scotland is not merely about initiating new policies and structures but rather about enhancing and advancing the rights and responsibilities of the diverse communities, collectively and individually.
It is time we acknowledged that we all have a role to play in this process when we start functioning as responsible active citizens who equally contribute towards building, sustaining and advancing a fairer country for all.
Thus, through our endeavour to advance and progress a Fairer Scotland, it is a prerequisite that we, as diverse communities, continue to play a positive part in this process harnessing the most cherished environment of participative democracy that we all experienced through the referendum.
In a Fairer Scotland, we have a duty to pledge and enrich relevant debates in relation to equality, rights and responsibilities, diversity and citizenship as well as a dynamic inclusive identity.
The late-19th century establishment of the British planning system was a direct response to poor living conditions, social inequalities and public health issues associated with rapid urbanisation. Pioneers like Ebenezer Howard recognised the importance of places which foster wellbeing and are sustainable. By uniting good design with higher building standards, and a clear desire to promote social objectives, the planning system facilitates outcomes such as quality places, decent housing, employment, public services and amenities – all with positive impacts on equality, equity and wellbeing.
The extent to which people get involved in decisions that impact them, be it the delivery of local services or the design of well-functioning places, are important measurements of an inclusive society and an important indicator of the overall wellbeing of our country. Meaningful public participation, not only in the processes, but also in the decision-making are at the heart of a Fairer Scotland.
The importance of a participative approach
It is often argued that process and bureaucracy have taken precedence over the original aims of planning, with emphasis on social justice fading. It is striking that the Fairer Scotland report states that only 22% of people in Scotland feel that they can influence decisions in their local area; and also that people in lower socio-economic group feel that they have a lower level of influence. The planning system is of course a prominent example of local decision-making. If we are to create places that will deliver better, more equitable outcomes, then all people must have the opportunities and the capacity to engage effectively at the earliest opportunity – genuine participative placemaking. Achieving this is the focus of PAS’s educational role in helping people to become active citizens.
Improving the system
A hallmark of a fairer society is one in which levels of civic engagement are high and democratic processes are accessible to all. It is clear that the current Scottish Government attaches high priority to the greater involvement of communities in placemaking, evidenced by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the current Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. However, the creation of empowered communities throughout Scotland is dependent upon easy access to information, training and support required to engage effectively with planning and placemaking – and disadvantaged communities may often require greater initial support. The involvement Community Councils is essential, but also of young people, seldom-heard groups and other community groups, in allowing decisions to be influenced at the most local level.
The role of PAS
PAS – as an educational charity facilitating everyone to have their voice heard in discussions and decisions about their local area – has a key role to play in the Fairer Scotland debate. All of our work is focused on engagement and participative placemaking – detailed below are just two examples of PAS projects which have directly addressed those seldom-heard by decision-makers.
As a group often disadvantaged by an unfair and unequal society, it is essential that young people are educated from an early age in their rights and responsibilities as citizens and have an understanding of how to get involved in local decision-making. PAS’s Young Placemakers initiative encourages and empowers young people to become involved in shaping their places. The programme creates motivated young community leaders, who can inspire their peers to think about the places where they live and the future of their communities. PAS recognises the clear-sightedness and capability of young people in identifying and expressing the needs of their communities.
Gypsy/Travellers and the Scottish Planning System research project
Gypsy/Travellers are a group whose quality of life and social outcomes, such as health, educational attainment and employment opportunities, are very much tied to the availability of good-quality and culturally-appropriate accommodation. Inadequate provision has contributed to significantly poorer living standards for Gypsy/Travellers. PAS was commissioned by the Scottish Government to research the engagement of Gypsy/Travellers with the Scottish planning system, with the intention of increasing the level and quality of the engagement of Gypsy/Travellers, making their voices heard, and improving the quality of outcomes, as well as improving professional practice at local authority level.
The possibilities of change
The examples of PAS’s Young Placemakers® programme and Gypsy/Travellers project demonstrate how – if we address disadvantage by promoting wider participation in place – a whole range of social outcomes can be improved. Active participation of all communities in Scotland in the processes shaping their environment will yield multiple benefits. It will create more equitable opportunities to influence decision-making. It will help reinvigorate civic life and the involvement of people in the democratic process. It will above all produce better quality places, which meet people’s needs and aspirations, and in doing so promote improved living standards and equality of opportunity. These benefits do however depend on the right support and delivery structures and the allocation of necessary resources.
Website, The PAS website
PAS promotes education for all in the planning process, to encourage community engagement in creating positive places. With over 20 years of experience, the expertise of our staff and volunteers inspires and empowers people across Scotland.
The new UN Sustainable Development Goals – promote development within planetary boundaries, where no one is left behind. The underline the importance of future low carbon national/international social and economic developments.
Scotland 2030 is another initiative by the Scottish Government which aims to communicate what current climate change policy commitments and aspirations might mean in practice [and on the ground] in 2030. This is a useful engagement tool to continue the debate on how Scotland can become a low carbon society, highlighting the action people can take nowto make this vision a reality.
These developments provide the context for the Fairer Greener Scotland conversations.
Our Fairer Greener eventsYou are warmly invited to join a #fairerscotland #fairergreener conversation to explore what a socially just and sustainable Scotland would look like and what is needed to achieve such a joint vision by 2030.
We are thrilled to be able to create this collaborative space for those individuals, communities and organisations interested in social justice and sustainability issues. We’ll be hosting two events – in Edinburgh and Glasgow – on the 25th November and 1st December respectively.
By coming together and discussing these key issues – whilst exploring ways to address them – we can begin to map the resources and leadership needed to create a just and sustainable Scotland by 2030.
We are also pleased to announce that Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform will join the Fairer Greener Scotland event in Edinburgh on November 25th.
The events are organised by the Ethnic Minority Environmental Network and CEMVO Scotland whilst they are also supported by:
Learning for Sustainability Scotland
Scottish Government Social Justice and Regeneration
Scottish Government Climate Change Hub
University of Edinburgh Moray House School of Education
University of Edinburgh Social Responsibility and Sustainability
These organisations are already advancing the combined social justice and sustainability agenda. So please, do sign up! We look forward to seeing you there…
Website, Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfS)
Scotland’s UN Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. LfS Scotland’s purpose is to harness the full potential of learning to create a flourishing, sustainable world. By participating in the Fairer Greener Scotland by 2030 event, the organisation continues it’s work with and for its members and partners on a local, national and global scale.
Website, CIFAL Scotland
Part of UNITAR’s network of International Training Centres – CIFAL is dedicated to providing innovative training. This strengthens the capacity of government and civil society to advance sustainable development and implement the sustainable development goals. In doing so, they help pave the way for an integrated sustainable future within planetary boundaries – where no one is left behind.
Website, The Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO Scotland)
A Scottish charity committed to strengthening communities and tackling inequalities. CEMVO Scotland works with the BME sector across Scotland, is a strategic partner to the Scottish Government, and promotes a partnership approach to increase understanding of the EM third sector whilst also inspiring others to strive to reduce the inequality gap. CEMVO forms the hub for the The Ethnic Minority Environmental Network.
Website, The UN Sustainable Development Goals
These UN goals promote development within planetary boundaries – where no one is left behind. The goals underline the importance of considering future national and international social and economic developments within a low-carbon context.
Website, Scotland 2030
Another initiative by the Scottish Government which aims to communicate what current climate change policy commitments and aspirations might mean in practice, on the ground, in 2030. This is a useful engagement tool to continue the debate on how Scotland can become a low carbon society – highlighting the action people can take now to make this vision a reality.
Event tickets website, Fairer Greener Edinburgh conversation, 25th November
Our Edinburgh event will allow delegates to share perspectives on where we are, and how to ensure our Fairer Greener Scotland ideas [arising from the event] are made a reality by 2030. We are pleased to announce that Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform will join the Fairer Greener Scotland event. The event takes place on Wednesday, November 25th – 17:30 until 20:30.
Event tickets website, Fairer Greener Glasgow conversation, 1st December
Our Glasgow event will allow delegates to share perspectives on where we are, and how to ensure our Fairer Greener Scotland ideas [arising from the event] are made a reality by 2030. The event takes place on Tuesday, 1st December – 17:30 until 20:30 .
Martin Johnstone (Secretary, Church of Scotland’s Church & Society Council).
One of the most exciting things that I have been involved with over the years has been a wee project, supported by the Church of Scotland, called Together for a Change.
It brings together people from two different parts of the world who share the same experience: the experience of poverty grinding you down day after day.
Tomas, a rural farmer from northern Malawi, spent three weeks living in Ruchazie (part of Greater Easterhouse). His first comment was about how beautiful Ruchazie was. And so it is. It is full of amazing and incredible people.
At the end of his trip, along with other members of the group, he reflected on the visit and on the subsequent visit of a group of people from Ruchazie to Baula.
One thing really struck me. “In Baula,” he said:
“..when we have a problem, we get together and decide how we can best address it. In Ruchazie, when you have a problem, you need to hand it on to someone else: the Council, the police, the Social, the school. They then decide what happens, if anything. Maybe…you’re actually poorer than us because you don’t even have the power to decide what happens in your own community.”
Of course, the situation is a lot more complicated than that. There is a huge amount that a desperately poor rural farmer in Malawi has virtually no control over and I don’t think, if I am really honest, I would want to change my life for his.
At the same time, I think that Tomas is on to something profoundly important. In Scotland, economic poverty is compounded by a deep-rooted poverty of participation.
The voices of people who struggle against poverty are not heard. Their experience is not valued. Their wisdom is ignored. Part, and only part, of making our country a fairer nation is about ensuring that we change that.
The things which I have seen really work over the years – organisations like FARE in Easterhouse; the Jeely Piece Club in Castlemilk; Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre in Bellshill; Bridging the Gap in the Gorbals; and Richmond’s Hope in Craigmillar – have worked (and lasted) partly because of incredibly inspiring, committed leaders but also because they have been deeply rooted in the struggle for dignity in these local communities.
Over the last six years, I have been incredibly fortunate to be involved in Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission. The Commission has brought together two groups of people: those who exercise power and influence on Scottish society and those who are the victims of a poverty that is not of their making. Different groups of commissioners have met most months over the years.
Again and again and again, I have been struck by the fact that the real wisdom and expertise rests with those who struggle against poverty on a daily basis.
Whereas many commissions seek to gather evidence about what needs to change – and then sit on the shelf gathering dust – the Poverty Truth Commission seeks to be the evidence. Fleetingly, imperfectly and often failing to make the difference that we hope to, the Commission none the less points to an important truth.
We cannot possibly hope to create a fairer Scotland without deliberately setting out to recalibrate the current imbalance of power and participation. In the words of the Commission’s motto, drawn from South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.’
Martin Johnstone is secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church & Society Council. Over the last 25 years he has been involved in a wide range of community projects. When asked what it is that gets him out of bed in the morning, he would always say that it is never the alarm clock but the hope of a fairer world and the chance to spend time in the company of inspiring people. You can follow Martin on twitter @MartinJohnston8
PDF Document [1,602KB] ‘Together for a change’
Over the last six years one of the most exciting, unnerving, challenging and hopeful pieces of work that I have been privileged to be involved with has been Together for a Change. It has been a shared initiative of the Church of Scotland‟s World Mission and Ministries Councils supported for the first three years of by the generosity and courage of the Church of Scotland Guild.
PDF Document [2,779KB] ‘Turning up the volume on poverty’ report
For the last eighteen months, the Poverty Truth Commission has brought together two groups of people: some of Scotland’s most influential citizens and an equal number of people who face the daily grind against poverty. We have met ten times as a full Commission as well as more frequently in small groups.
Website, The Poverty Truth Commission
The Poverty Truth Commission brings together some of Scotland’s key decision makers with those living at the sharp end of poverty. We work together towards overcoming poverty in Scotland; ensuring that those affected by decisions are central to decision-making. The Commission believes poverty will only be truly addressed when those who experience it first-hand are at the heart of the process.
We are a grassroots charity operating from Easterhouse, Glasgow. We were established in 1989 by local people in response to the lack of support and opportunities in the community, especially for families and young people. We aim to improve life in the community by offering activities to lift people’s aspirations, enhance their standard of living, and tackle territorialism and anti-social behaviour.
Website, Jeely Piece Club
We adopt a truly holistic approach across all of our services. Whether you’re a user of nursery, play, learning or volunteering services, or just want to drop in for parent and toddler groups, you are assured of a friendly, professional & personalised service.
Website, Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre
Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre is a dynamic, community-based organisation operating for the benefit of people living in the Orbiston and Bellshill area of North Lanarkshire. Our vision is of a thriving, inclusive community where people live, work and play in harmony.
Website, Bridging the Gap
We are a charity based in the Gorbals, Glasgow – with over 15-years experience of dealing with young people, families and people from different backgrounds and cultures. Building relationships across diversity is at the core of all our work.
Website, Richmond’s Hope
Richmond’s Hope is based in Richmond Craigmillar Church in Niddrie in Edinburgh. Our team is made up of five members of staff. Four of them (three female and one male) are trained in childhood bereavement. Our management team is made up of our senior bereavement supportworker and our office manager.
Website, Church and Society Council
The Church and Society Council’s remit is to engage on behalf of the Church in the national, political and social issues affecting Scotland and the world today. This includes a huge range of issues including human rights, asylum, ethics, science and technology, concerns about gambling, climate change and education issues.
Angus Hardie (Director, Scottish Community Alliance).
To share: (Verb)
1. to participate in, to use, enjoy or experience jointly or in turns.
When something is shared, to my mind, something fundamentally important happens. Cooperation is required, people have to talk to one another, to consider the needs of others, to give as well as take. The idea of a shared space, somewhere that exists in common for everyone, requires there to be a certain level of trust and a degree of mutual understanding between everyone involved, as to how the space in question should be used, now and in the future.
I believe this notion of shared space is the very essence of community and it is this that has become such a focus of attention for today’s politicians and policy makers. The pool of social capital that lies within every community has been identified as a vast untapped national asset.
What Can We Achieve?
If we can harness this resource efficiently, directly attaching it in some way to the state’s apparatus, then the crisis afflicting our public services, not to mention the state of our democracy, would be resolved at a stroke – or so the theory goes.
And it is this idea that has driven so much of the current debate surrounding local democracy and community empowerment – the relationship and tensions between representative and participative democracy – and the drive to establish standards of strong governance in the interests of transparency and public accountability.
But perhaps, in the rush to formalise, standardise and even institutionalise this shared space, there is a risk that we jeopardise the very thing that makes it so precious.
Before so much of modern life became subject to the ideology of the ‘market’, our relationship with the natural world and its resources must have been fundamentally different.
With no concept of ownership, private or otherwise, with none of the drivers that are currently so dominant and which seek to maximise personal advantage at the expense of those around them, our behaviour must have been determined by unspoken rules or a natural sense of ‘justice’ in terms how we made use of and shared the space around us and the resources within them.
Shared space in those dim and distant days must have been as natural as the air we breathed.
But once market thinking entered these fields of human activity, the capacity to share began to be threatened.
Michael Sandel in his book What Money Cant Buy: The Moral Limits of the Market, describes this process by citing the example of an Israeli Day Care Centre. The Centre responded to a problem with parents turning up late to collect their children by introducing fines.
Late pick-ups increased. Parents turned up late, paid the fine, and thought no more of it; the fine had turned into a fee. The fear of disapproval and of doing the wrong thing was based on non-monetary values, and was a stronger force than mere cash. The daycare centre went back to the old system, but parents kept turning up late, because the introduction of market values had killed the old ideas of collective responsibility. Once the old “norm” of turning up on time had been marketised, it was impossible to change back.
I believe that most people have a natural preference to live in a state of sharing rather than one which is dominated by market values and indeed the extent to which we lead happy and fulfilled lives is, in large part, determined by this.
This is not to deny the important contribution that market values have played in creating the modern world, just that there are many areas of life where it is simply better that market thinking plays no part, and that we as human beings should allow ourselves to follow our instincts, and make our contribution towards a common good – a shared space – just because we can.
And, if we did, perhaps Scotland might become that fairer country that we all want it to be.
Angus Hardie has worked in and around Scotland’s community sector for over 30 years. Most recently he helped to establish the national umbrella body for development trusts (DTA Scotland) before setting up the Scottish Community Alliance – a broad coalition of the country’s major community based networks – with the aim of promoting the interests of Scotland’s community sector more widely.
Danny Boyle (Parliamentary and Policy Officer – BEMIS Scotland).
Scotland is changing. The public appetite for progressive, informed and collaborative development within issues which affect our everyday lives and those of future generations has showed little sign of abating since September 18th 2014.
Social Justice is both personal and at the heart of our communal aspirations. It is an experience we want to live in our everyday lives and a process through which we strive to make Scotland a country which reflects the potential and diversity of its citizens.
The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship. Inherent within this process were the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland. Amongst others education, health, employment, housing, equality, human rights, internationalism, trident and Scotland’s place in the UK and the world were articulately debated, considered and discussed in front of global audience.
From the streets, civic and community centres of our cities, towns and villages. Down the local pub, around the dinner table and in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples the richness, confident and dynamic diversity of the people of Scotland evolved into questions, solutions, aspirations and belief built around a pivot of social justice.
The 2014 Independence Referendum was the catalyst for a titanic increase in participative, diverse, democratic citizenship. Inherent within this process were the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland.
The Social Justice agenda is not new. It has been a cornerstone of political theory and discussion since the foundations of representative and equitable framework of governance were set down and progressed by the ancient Greeks.
At its heart is creating fair and equitable responses to the needs of diverse citizens. Not elite groups or vested interests and certainly not systems upon which the criteria for social justice is benchmarked against a profit sheet.
A true democracy underpinned by an objective of ‘social justice’ will always place the people at the heart of the process, in its inception, development and implementation. A process articulated by diverse people, with varying interests combined by a spirit of humanity, cultural diversity and active citizenship.
In 2015 Scotland has never been more diverse. The 2011 Scottish Census indicated that over 8% of the population identified themselves as being from ethnic or cultural minority communities. Within this 8% there are intricate, nuanced and beautifully unique identities which offer significant opportunities for Scotland.
In the context of the social justice process our diversity is a strength. Invigorating and informed ideas reside within us all regardless of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or belief.
People and communities are also best placed to articulate what ‘social justice’ means to them. As it’s experienced on a day to day basis. How the process should be informed and how it can be made better in the days, weeks, months, years and decades to come.
In truth it should never end but it must come alongside action, outcomes and tangible change.
Scotland, all of us, are in an advantageous place to continue the process of social justice and it is right that the emphasis on its design should reside in the knowledge and experience of diverse citizens.
BEMIS Scotland are the national Ethnic and Cultural Minorities led umbrella body supporting the development of the Ethnic Minorities Voluntary Sector in Scotland and the communities that this sector represents.
Our vision is of a Scotland that is equal, inclusive and responsive: A society where:
people from the diverse communities are valued, treated with dignity and respect
have equal citizenship, opportunities and equality of life