Leader: ‘The councils can play a crucial role’

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THE idea of community and what it actually means to us in Scotland has been much discussed this week.

The Bishop of London told the nation that Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that there is “no such thing as society” has been misunderstood, she was trying only to make a point about the need to take individual responsibility. Others have told of the devastation caused to their community by the Government policies of the Thatcher era.

It perhaps goes to show, more than anything, that most Scots and the former PM rarely understood each other, despite sharing a common language.

While much of the debate about Thatcher’s legacy has become nothing more than political pointscoring, the talk about community values can be constructive.

Community values have also come to the fore in Portobello where there is a battle over the make-up of the community council.

It may seem like an unseemly squabble in a neighbourhood where tensions remain following the bitter battle over the building of the new Portobello High School on local parkland.

But instead should we not be celebrating the interest which residents are taking in local civic affairs.

This is a phenomenon which we have seen played out in other neighbourhoods in the past. People who took no previous interest in local politics are drawn in by a grassroots campaign and decide afterwards that they want more of a say in how decisions are made locally.

In most areas, you could stop 50 people in the street and you’d be lucky if more than one or two knew who was on their community council, or what they did.

It is easy to forget that community councils can play a crucial role as the voice of local residents. Their view is sought on everything from planning applications for a new cafe to whether money should be spent sprucing up the children’s play park.

The more people that get involved in that process, the broader the debate. And that mixture of voices being heard has to be good for any local 
community.