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Community Empowerment and Scotland's Environment

Scotland's nature and landscapes play an important role in supporting economic growth, improving people's health and well-being, adapting to climate change and providing us with a strong sense of identity. Getting the most from nature and landscapes, and improving the health and resilience of these natural assets, are key aspects of the ecosystem approach. This approach is strengthened when communities are empowered to look after nature and landscapes and are involved in the decisions that affect them.

Getting involved

More and more communities are taking steps to look after their local environment, including:

Some exciting, innovative examples of communities taking the initiative, with some help and support from SNH, include the Carse of Stirling project, people and nature - learning through doing external site , climate change conversations, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire biosphere reserve external site , supporting community development on Rum external site  and a national advisory panel for young people run by Young Scot.

Taking the initiative might seem daunting at first, but there is a lot of support available through community networks run or supported by organisations like The Conservation Volunteers external site , Scottish Community Development Centre external site , Volunteering Matters external site , Community Woodlands Association external site , Greenspace Scotland external site , Paths for All external site , Community Land Scotland external site  and Development Trusts Association Scotland external site . Highlands & Islands Enterprise also provide support for communities external site , including the Scottish Land Fund.

There are also "toolkits" available to help communities think about issues affecting their local place. Some examples include "Talking About Our Place  PDF document ", VOICE external site , the Place Standard external site  and Climate Ready Places.

Community empowerment - our approach

Helping more communities, be they communities of place or communities of interest, to look after local assets and to participate in decisions that affect them is a top priority for the Scottish Government external site . The Scottish Parliament has recently passed the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 external site  to strengthen the powers that communities have to act and get involved.

In response to this, we are looking at how we can use the resources we have to help encourage and support more communities to get actively involved in environmental issues and in helping to shape the decisions that affect the environment. We will support community empowerment by:

a) listening to the needs of communities and looking at the skills, knowledge, energy and ideas they can bring to the table

b) encouraging a wider range of communities, particularly those representing young people or people experiencing some form of exclusion, to get involved

c) engaging with Gaelic speaking communities in line with our Gaelic Language Plan

d) providing feedback to communities we work directly with on how their input has influenced our thinking and decision-making

e) learning from and sharing good practice

f) identifying opportunities for communities to get more involved in our land holdings

g) identifying how we can help more communities to take control or ownership of local natural assets, be it a local nature reserve, path network or area of green space

h) identifying how we can help more communities to get involved in shaping the decisions that affect nature and landscapes

i) involving communities more in the design and delivery of some of the services we provide

We will review our approach in early 2016 as we discuss the issues with community bodies and we will develop a more joined-up approach with other public bodies including Forest Enterprise Scotland, SEPA and the two national park authorities.

Last updated on Monday 24th April 2017 at 11:28 AM. Click here to comment on this page