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Building Community Wealth

Julie McLachlan

Scotland's Land & Economy

As part of the ‘Scotland’s Land & Economy’ series exploring the fundamental role of land in achieving Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery and renewal, we are publishing a range of guest blogs from leading thinkers across the UK. The purpose of these blogs is to stimulate ideas and debate and do not necessarily represent the view of the Commission.

Building on the recent blog ‘Land and collective wellbeing: fertile soil’, Julie McLachlan, Director at CEIS Ayrshire and Senior Manager – Economic Policy at North Ayrshire Council (NAC), explores the concept of building community wealth through NAC's Community Wealth Building strategy. 

As we emerge from Covid-19 we need to build back better, fairer and greener. That is why we have launched our Community Wealth Building (CWB) strategy – the first of its kind in Scotland – to put forward a new economic model to support our recovery.

It is no secret that North Ayrshire has some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in Scotland. Despite our natural assets including our coastline, North Ayrshire also has some of the highest levels of vacant and derelict land in Scotland. At the same time, we are facing a climate crisis, with the Council declaring a Climate Emergency in 2019.

It is clear that the current economic model is not working, and in particular, it’s not working for places like North Ayrshire.

That’s why we’ve chosen a different path. Our Community Wealth Building strategy sets out how we will become Scotland’s first CWB Building Council with a mission to enhance local wealth and the creation of fair jobs, and maximise the potential of all our places through working in partnership with our communities and businesses, alongside wider local and regional anchor institutions.

We have six ambitious objectives to deliver CWB:

  • Community Wealth Building Council: We will work across all our services and wider local and regional partners to implement Scotland’s first approach to Community Wealth Building
  • Procurement: We will use our spend to actively encourage and support a growing, diverse and resilient local business base, and to support our net zero carbon ambitions
  • Fair Employment: We will encourage the creation of fair and meaningful jobs with progression opportunities to unlock the potential of our residents
  • Land and Assets: We will support the wider regeneration of our communities by maximising all of our land and assets including through alternative uses for community and business benefit
  • Financial Power: We will invest locally and encourage regional and national institutions to invest in our communities
  • Plural Ownership of the Economy: We will support the creation and sustainability of a range of business models including SMEs, social enterprise, employee ownership, cooperatives, municipal activity and community enterprises.

A key pillar of our approach is using the land and assets we own for the common good. The strategy sets out a range of actions focused on maximising the use of our land including:

  • Reviewing our land and assets to support alternative community uses, commercial opportunities to grow local wealth, and to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • Continuing to support Community Asset Transfer and support community capacity building to grow community ownership
  • Utilise our land to help develop low carbon and renewable energy schemes and networks to support our green transition
  • Work within our town centres and localities, in partnership with local businesses and communities, to tackle under-utilised and derelict land and buildings.

One example of where this type of activity is already underway is our work with the Three Towns Growers which features as a ‘CWB in practice’ case study within our strategy. The Three Towns Growers are a community-led organisation dedicated to providing growing space and educational opportunities to all members of the community. The group have benefited from the Council’s Community Investment Fund to create an environmental educational community hub and employ a development worker.

While we are at the start of our CWB journey we are determined to use this approach to transform the wellbeing of our communities, and the democratic ownership and productive use of land will be key to that.

The health emergency has called into question current economic practice and highlights the importance of creating a new economic model, focused on wellbeing and inclusion.

A focus solely on enhancing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an output at a national level is not sufficient to recognise the wider levels of economic, social and environmental wellbeing across our communities.

We also need to create an economy that is more resilient and sustainable, and ensure North Ayrshire is ready to deal with future challenges, including the Climate Emergency.

We are ready to play our part in delivering Community Wealth Building locally and regionally to achieve wellbeing and inclusion and to combat climate change. Join us on our journey.