Oxfam calls for increased people power
David Eyre UK Poverty Press Officer
11th Oct 2012
Oxfam Scotland says increased people power in Scotland should be used to tackle poverty and promote real community-led economic development, tackling inequality and providing sustainable livelihoods for everyone in Scotland.
The charity has just submitted its response to the Scottish Government's Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.
It is calling for a fundamental redistribution of power in Scotland through meaningful and responsive community participation in decision-making and agenda setting.
Oxfam says communities should be given the power to take over un-used, or under-used, local land and assets like empty buildings. The state should be supported to find, develop and deliver their own solutions.
Public bodies should respond to community agendas - not just consult with them around the margins.
Oxfam also says that communities across Scotland should have the same rights that communities in crofting areas already enjoy - to purchase privately-held land and assets even where the existing owner is unwilling to sell.
The charity believes that communities who want to take on assets in this way would first have to show how they will use them to reduce poverty and inequality.
And it says that the Scottish Government should put in place a Poverty Commissioner, who will act as a champion for the poorest communities, helping to place makes sure that their voices are heard and acted on by decision-makers both locally and at Holyrood.
Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "From our work around the world, we know that some of the best solutions to poverty come from people in the poorest communities themselves.
"In Scotland, we work with partners who have created fantastic facilities for their local communities. The Beith Community Development Trust has provided brand new football pitches used by hundreds of local children - keeping money in the local community. Sunny Govan Community Radio gives local people the chance to take to the airwaves, talk about issues of real local importance and get training in media production. The GalGael Trust in Govan doesn't just provide training in traditional skills for local people, it gives them a sense of self-worth and a real sense of community.
"Scotland's people are full of ideas and potential. If public bodies listen to communities, react to their ideas and support them in using all of the assets available to them - including land - we could see an incredible transformation.
"That kind of community-led development will move us towards a new kind of economy that works for everyone."