Healthy society lies within communities

Lesley Riddoch's exploration of what localism might look like within the Scottish context (Opinion, 26 June) is both timely and challenging.

While much recent media attention has focused on David Cameron's vision of "big society", below the media radar a quieter revolution has been gradually taking place in communities throughout Scotland.

This bottom-up regeneration has emerged from the inability of the market and public sector to deliver in many rural communities, the failure of successive regeneration initiatives, and a paternalistic form of community engagement which turns citizens into consumers.

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As Riddoch correctly observes, development trusts are increasingly being established in rural and urban communities across Scotland - community-led organisations which harness the energy, creativity and commitment of local people to address social, economic, cultural and environmental concerns.

This approach embraces enterprise and the community ownership of assets to create independent and resilient communities. Despite the marked growth and achievements of development trusts in Scotland, the phenomenon remains a largely unrecognised Scottish success story.

While Cameron's big society vision certainly presents a challenge to Scottish politicians at all levels, it is the economic crisis and drastically reduced public sector budgets which, ultimately, may lead to a greater role for development trusts and community-led regeneration. Encouragingly, a number of senior politicians already seem to understand this crucial message. While it is difficult to argue against the scale and illogicality of the picture of Scottish local authorities Riddoch paints, development trusts need not be seen as alternative to councils, but rather, increasingly important contributors to the building of local democracy, community resilience and creative delivery of local services.


Development Trusts Association Scotland

Manor Place