Great news – both Scottish Ministers and the church trustees have approved the buyout of Portobello’s Bellfield Church. The first urban buy out under the Community Empowerment Act.
I’m delighted that this idea, which (I think) first featured in an SCVO manifesto in 2010, I co-authored with Sarah Beattie-Smith is making its way into reality. And in a place I love.
I’m very grateful to those who’ve spent so much time on this, not least Justin Kenrick who planted the seed of the idea, and Mary Campbell who has done so much work to make it happen, alongside the many, many hours devoted to the buy out by super-dedicated community activists.
So many of the political problems we face today are the result of people feeling disconnected from the problems that they face. From the 1990s onwards the drive of the market into every relationship has robbed people of control of their lives. That’s primarily a failure of democracy. And it’s very difficult to see how we can go back to the ‘delivery state’ that so effectively built council houses, eliminated infectious diseases like tuberculosis and created the modern infrastructure of this country.
The aim of the community right to buy is to pioneer a new way of living and working together. One that isn’t either the ‘delivery state’ that worked well in the mid-20th Century, or the market, which has so spectacularly failed in the last 10 years.
The opportunity to decide how our lives work, together with those who live around us, is one of the fundamental characteristics of being human. Learning how to do that better will be at the heart of overcoming the challenges we face, from inequality to climate change.
The Bellfield buy-out (and other initiatives like the Edinburgh Student Housing Cooperative) make a start – a small one – but pioneering these ways of working will be vital. So thanks to everyone who’s got us this far. and here’s to building the future.