Over the last 10 years there has been a steady growth in the number of local
communities which have established community development trusts across Scotland.
The particular reasons for them being set up vary from community to community.
Sometimes there are external pressures that lead to the establishment of a trust
and in others they are the logical outcomes of a community strategic planning
initiative such as the Community Futures programmes in Stirling or the Loch
Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
In some cases there is an urgent project
that needs to be driven forward in others the generator is a strongly felt need
by local people to intervene in the process of governance of their local area,
most particularly the island and the crofting estate community land buyouts.
(For further information on community land buyouts visit the case studies on
The community development trusts can be seen as the direct descendants of both
the community co-operatives set up with the help of the Highlands and Islands
Development Board in the 1970s and 1980s and the community businesses and
community enterprises of the urban and lowland areas. Indeed in a number of
cases they have been established by some of the same folk who were involved in
earlier community ventures. Certainly the legal framework they tend to use -
democratically based companies limited by guarantee with charitable status -
draws heavily on the pioneering energy of the people who developed the models
for the community enterprise movement.
In the main, the trusts reflect a particular geographic area rather than
providing a response for a particular community of interest. As a consequence
they tend to have broader aims than might have been the case earlier. Typically
the trusts operate across a range of spheres, tackling social and community
issues, local economic development and environmental improvements as well as
specific tasks such as village centre renewal or the purchase of woodland for
Many communities have a strong sense of a democratic deficit in Scotland. The
idea of community development trusts has been seized on by local people as a way
of turning this on its head - a chance to do things themselves rather than live
with decisions made elsewhere.
In the first round of local government re-organisation in Scotland in the
mid-1970s, the local burghs and counties were replaced by a three-tier structure
of region, district and community councils. The second round of local government
re-organisation in the mid-1990s, largely driven by the government's antipathy
to Strathclyde Region, created unitary authorities. Why was there no
acknowledgement of the role of community councils?
The most local of the statutory levels, the community councils, do not employ
staff, raise funds, own or lease property and rarely engage in any pro-active
project development. This is exactly the function of the community development
trusts which are not uncommonly closely tied in to existing local structures
like the community council, housing association or local business or tourist
One vital role that the community development trusts play is to act as a
resource for local voluntary organisations, often providing administrative
support, assistance with funding applications or with organisational structures.
As the state withdraws and redefines its role, local communities are realising
that they have to act themselves to improve the quality of life in their area.
The trusts represent one way for this to happen through open democratic action.
One of the main issues facing the trusts is the difficulty of securing and
planning for their long-term future. Increasingly they are working towards
financial independence through income generating projects but the search for
secure funding sources for their core activities is an uphill one, especially
for that difficult second phase stage, three or four years on from
establishment. And yet it is the way these core activities fill a gap in local
provision that is one of the major successes of the movement.
Together with Senscot, the Association of Small Towns in Scotland (ASTIS) has
been working with the Development Trusts Association (DTA) to establish a
Scottish DTA. Applications for funding have been submitted to public and private
sources for a three-year development programme. ASTIS has a database of some 50
interested organisations and other support networks (e.g. CBS Network and the
Community Futures Programme) are in touch with many others.
This is an important moment for the community development trusts in Scotland.
Although a number of local authorities and other public agencies are actively
supporting the establishment of community development trusts to drive them
forward, it becomes clear that there is a policy vacuum at the centre. There is
a need and indeed an opportunity for a champion in government to pick up the
cause and develop a coherent policy that will enable sensible planning for the
future - creating a recognised place for the community development trusts -
locally owned and locally managed for the benefit of the community as a whole.
The mission of New Sector magazine is to promote the principles and practice of
collective enterprise, common ownership, co-operation and community control. In
particular, it promotes enterprises whose governance, management and ownership
are characterised by democratic and participative structures at worker,
community and member levels.
New Sector is a joint venture by Co-operatives UK, Community Business Scotland
Network, Wales Co-operative Centre and the Social Economy Agency of Northern
For further information visit