THE Community Empowerment Bill, which the Scottish Government will pass into law on 17 June, is a con. For the most part it is a rehash of existing legislation and guidance relating to community right-to-buy, community planning, local planning and allotments.
The handful of new provisions – including the right of community bodies to participate in decision-making and public service provision – are so lacking in detail as to be worthless. Which community bodies? Which decisions? Which public services? The bill doesn’t say.
The worst thing of all, however, is the utter disrespect shown by the bill to Scotland’s community councils – the third tier of Scottish democracy. For example, in relation to community planning, a mother-and-toddlers group or a pensioners’ lunch club will have the same right of participation as a community council.
If the Scottish Government really wanted to empower Scotland’s communities, it would start by giving community councils the same extensive powers and budgets as England’s parish councils. This would help community councils to recover from their enfeebled state in which one in five is now disbanded. The Scottish Government must realise that community councils are vital to give our democracy strong roots that reach deep down into community life.
Coupar Angus, Perthshire