A focus on communities, and the contribution they make to overall wellbeing, must continue to be a central plank of the Scottish Government’s housing and wider social justice agenda, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations.
Welcoming Shona Robison as the new cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government, the Forum said it is pleased to see housing explicitly referred to in the role, but is concerned that responsibility for policy on communities now lies within the finance and economy portfolio.
Responsibility for community empowerment, along with ‘community wealth building’, lies with Tom Arthur, minister for public finance, planning and community wealth. Devolution to communities, the local governance review and democratic renewal, all of which used to be in Aileen Campbell’s portfolio, are not listed under any minister’s areas of responsibility.
Additionally, the Forum said that ‘place and place-making’, which used to be under Aileen Campbell’s portfolio, appears nowhere.
GWSF chair Helen Moore said: “We warmly welcome Shona Robison back to the cabinet and wish her every success in her new role, and we look forward to meeting her shortly. It’s really good to see explicit reference to housing in the cabinet secretary’s role title, especially now that there’s no housing minister.
“Policy on communities spans a range of areas of ministerial responsibility, but we’ve always been comfortable with it lying alongside housing and other social justice areas. We’re keen to understand what’s behind moving it to finance and the economy.
“We know that the concepts of ‘community’ and ‘place’ can sometimes be challenging as they can seem theoretical or abstract. But for our members and the people they serve, these are very real, practical concepts which should be central to the way different government agendas become a reality on the ground.
“The Scottish Government has placed communities at the heart of so many of its key policies over the years, including community empowerment and place-making, and through various funding streams. Forum members have welcomed this and fervently hope it will continue.
“Maintaining a focus on the needs of communities, and the capacity and assets within them, is also an important counter-balancing factor when many agendas, including the developing agenda on human rights, tend to focus on the needs and rights of the individual.”