Parliamentary Motion on Uist and Lewis as Social Enterprise Places

Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Outer Hebrides) has sent …
 
“Congratulations to the social enterprise community in Uist and Lewis for the work you’ve done to become the first areas within this new scheme.
 
I have marked this with a motion lodged in the Scottish Parliament highlighting the vital contribution which social enterprises make to Na h-Eileanan an Iar: https://beta.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/votes-and-motions/votes-and-motions-search/S5M-23873

Motion ref. S5M-23873
Uist and Lewis Recognised as Social Enterprise Places
Submitted by: Alasdair Allan, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scottish National Party.
Date lodged: Friday, January 15, 2021
Supported by: Annabelle Ewing, Kenneth Gibson, Emma Harper, Bill Kidd, Stuart McMillan, Gil Paterson, Stewart Stevenson

That the Parliament congratulates Uist and Lewis on being recognised as the first communities within the Social Enterprise Places Scotland scheme; notes that Social Enterprise Places are local areas where social enterprise activity is thriving; understands that the programme was launched in November 2019 and aims to promote, raise awareness and build markets for social enterprises; further understands that Scottish islands have the highest densities of social enterprises per capita in Scotland and generate 10% of all jobs for people under 40 in island areas; notes that social enterprises, which reinvest their profits to create positive change, provide vital services and infrastructure contributing to public life, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and wishes social enterprise continued success during, and beyond, these challenging times.

Leis gach deagh dhùrachd

Alasdair Allan
MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar
alasdair.allan.msp@parliament.scot
01851 700357
20 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DR
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Social Enterprises Place event – January 21st

 

 

An online event recognising Uist and Lewis as Social Enterprise Places is to be hosted by Social Enterprise Scotland on January 21st at 11am. The event will be attended by Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, and representatives from Uist, Lewis and Govan (named ‘one to watch’) will talk about the important differences that social enterprise has made in their communities.

Social Enterprise Scotland will also be putting out a call for other communities to join the exciting new programme. 

You can sign up for the event here.

Uist, Lewis and Govan recognised in new Social Enterprise Places Scotland scheme

#SocEntPlaces

Scotland has long had a reputation for social enterprise activity and on the 21st January Social Enterprise Scotland are thrilled to recognise the impact of social enterprise as part of our Social Enterprise Places scheme. Uist and Lewis will be formally announced on Thursday 21 at an online event, attended by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary, Aileen Campbell MSP. In addition, Govan will be highlighted as ‘one to watch’ in 2021.

Social Enterprise Places are local areas where social enterprise activity is thriving, from neighbourhoods, to villages, towns, islands and both urban and rural communities. Social Enterprise Scotland has been encouraging local areas to recognise themselves as Social Enterprise Places committed to developing and investing in their local areas. The programme aims to promote, raise awareness, and build markets for social enterprises. While 2021 remains a challenging time for many areas the pandemic has also highlighted the role that social enterprise plays in supporting their community and Social Enterprise Scotland want to make sure their work is highlighted.

Thomas Fisher, Director at CoDeL, representing Uist adds “In Scotland islands have the highest density of social enterprise per head of population.  In Uist there are over 50 social and community enterprises, from large to very small, that are existential to the resilience, and thriving, of our island communities made up of 5000 people, including during Covid.  We are delighted that Social Enterprise Scotland is recognising the role social and community enterprises have been playing on Uist for four decades in delivering to community needs, building community wealth, and developing our islands as attractive places to live and work.  They also generate 10% of all jobs for people under 40 on the islands, enabling young people to return, stay or settle and contribute so much to our island communities.

Alasdair Nicolson, speaking for Lewis notes that “As an advocate of social enterprise and on behalf of Point and Sandwick Trust (PST), I welcome the recognition of Lewis as a Social Enterprise Place. This reflects the past and current development, leadership and entrepreneurship shown not only by Point and Sandwick Trust, but also of the  other social enterprise actors, in Uig, Bragor, Carloway, Pairc, Galston and Tolsta, to name a few. As we look beyond the horizon we aim to create stronger communities, through further community led opportunities, and by creating employment and improving infrastructure at local levels. There are now many good examples which other communities can see and Point and Sandwick Trust, for our part, are happy to share as we share from others”.

The recognition of these communities has also been welcomed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. 

Margaret McSporran, Head of Social Enterprise Development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said:

“Social enterprises are a vital part of our community and economy in the Highlands and Islands and bring far reaching economic and community benefits across the region. They help create employment and skills opportunities, improve public services and support some of our hardest to reach individuals. We congratulate Uist and Lewis on becoming ‘Social Enterprise Places’ and welcome the recognition of these hotspots of social enterprise activity.”

Chris Martin, CEO at Social Enterprise Scotland said: “Congratulations to the new Social Enterprise Places, all brilliant areas full of thriving social enterprise activity. Our local community groups and social enterprises have really stepped up to lead during the pandemic lockdown period and this scheme is a great way to share this learning and best practice. We know that across Scotland there are many other places waiting to be recognised as exemplars and we look forward to highlighting them as we build on the Places programme. We were also pleased to welcome Govan as ‘one to watch’ noting, that while shining a light on our island communities, the scheme has also seen the impact of social enterprise in our largest city by population too”.

Ian Mitchell, CEO at CEIS notes “We are delighted that the huge potential of Govan has been recognised as a prospective Social Enterprise Place.   Social enterprises already play a key role in the economic, social and cultural life of Govan securing jobs and delivering vital services across the community. The importance of Place will be even greater as we recover from the effects of the pandemic.  We look forward to even deeper collaboration between enterprises and with the Council to truly make Govan a Social Enterprise Place”

Book your free places at the online launch event.

ENDS

  • The Social Enterprise Places Programme for Scotland was launched by Social Enterprise Scotland in November 2019 but delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown period. It builds on the programme originally developed by Social Enterprise UK, that recognised Callander as Scotland’s first ever Social Enterprise Place. 
  • The programme is sponsored by The Scottish Government and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  • Benefits of the programme will vary from place to place but we know from the experiences of SEUK that collaboration, shared learning and collective voices have all strengthened social enterprise places over time. We plan to build on this working with other partners who have an interest in Placemaking, community development and regeneration.
  • Social Enterprise Scotland is a membership organisation that represents social enterprise organisations across Scotland. There are over 6,000 social enterprises in Scotland, all organisations committed to supporting social/environmental outcomes. Scotland and many social enterprise organisations have played a pivotal role in supporting people and communities during the pandemic, something they were well placed to deliver and have a continued commitment for.
  • To learn more about Social Enterprise Places please contact Naomi Johnson: naomi.johnson@socialenterprise.scot

Isle20 – A Christmas Success Story

 
 
 
 
New inter-island commerse site Isle20 has provided an online platform for businesses throughout the islands to continue selling their produce during Covid , and is now boosting their Christmas sales to make up for income lost during summer’s lockdowns.
 
Dynamic island entrepreneur, Rhoda Meek, based on Tiree, reports:
 
It’s been so exciting to watch isle20.com go from strength to strength over the last few months  – we have now got more than 500 island businesses listed, and 140 of them are selling in the isle20 shop!
 
We have over 2500 products to buy directly and after being featured in the Calmac newsletter we had our highest grossing sales day last month. The site stayed up despite hundreds of visitors a minute – which was the biggest worry!
 
So far we reckon we have generated over £40,000 for small island businesses and we’re not done yet – watch put for exclusive gift boxes, a giveaway in partnership with CalMac and we have gift cards available for those last minute Christmas panics!
 

 

Recruiting for 3 short-term posts

CoDeL is delighted to have secured additional funding under its Leader-funded Smart Islands project, for feasibility work on ‘Uist Life’ to develop a technology-based platform to give greater value and visibility to the rich environmental, cultural and community assets within Uist for local islanders, community organisations and visitors, and to benefit our island communities and local economy.

This funding allows CoDeL to recruit for 3 short-term posts under the Smart Islands project.

  1. Community Engagement Officer, Uist Life: 260 hours @ £19 an hour (total £4940)
  2. Digital Consultant, Uist Life: £7000 for 20 days or more of consulting
  3. Website and Social Media Support, Smart Islands Project: 50 hours @ £20 an hour (total £1000)

Continue reading “Recruiting for 3 short-term posts”

How do we best emerge from lockdown?

Following our weekly discussions with younger islanders and others, we drew up a community letter to our island MSP, Alasdair Allan … with more than 40 signatures, over a quarter from accommodation providers, and a quarter from younger islanders, mainly young leaders.  See the letter here: Community letter to MSP 15Jun20

Of course, not every islander agrees fully with the letter, and we continue to have diverse discussions with people with different viewpoints during these challenging times.

What harm is lockdown causing for island and other communities?

The comments in this post arose from our discussions about lockdown. They argue neither for lifting or maintaining lockdown restrictions, but point to issues we must address as island communities, whatever timetable for easing lockdown may be agreed.

There have been no identified cases of Covid 19 in Uist and Barra, and only a handful in Lewis, and community transmission seems to have been halted there (no further cases since 10th April).  This would suggest that easing lockdown conditions on these islands should be possible, providing we maintain travel restrictions to and from the mainland.

On the other hand, the sudden emergence of cases on neighbouring Skye (through which most supplies to Uist come) demonstrates how vulnerable our communities could be if and when cases present themselves here.  The fact that we all use a few common facilities, like a few supermarkets, means that transmission in the community could happen rapidly.

While these islands are very fortunate that we do not have any identified cases of Covid-19 at the moment, we should not hide from the fact that the lockdown is having severe consequences, including for health outcomes, on the islands:

  • The usual screening services have stopped, and, like elsewhere, patients are reluctant to approach their GP with non-Covid symptoms.  This means that important diagnosis, including critical early diagnosis, is not happening, and is putting lives at risk.  Unfortunately there is no way of counting these cases, although national analysis suggests very clearly that there is now an excess death rate which is not directly caused by Covid-19, and some of these deaths will happen on our islands, too.  In the case of our community, the potential early diagnosis of cancer is particularly concerning – numbers on the islands are too small for reliable statistical comparison, but it is widely believed that we have high incidences of cancer, and we raise more funding (per head of population) for Macmillan nurses and other such services than almost any other community in Britain.
  • The Western Isles have a higher proportion of elderly people than the Scottish average.  This makes us vulnerable to Covid-19.  It also makes us vulnerable to the harms caused by lockdown.  For example, Tagsa Uibhist’s Cuimhne project made significant progress in engaging with service-users, families and carers around dementia, but lockdown is now reversing these positive developments, and initially Cuimhne workers were not even recognised as key workers.  The only effective ‘treatment’ to slow dementia is social interaction, and lockdown has significantly curtailed the excellent service the community was providing through Cuimhne.  And similar harm is being caused to other elderly people, whether they suffer from dementia or not.  As one person in their 90s put it, “I may not have long to go, and isolation has wasted two months of the precious time left to me.” The strong social interaction typically delivered by our island communities prolongs life – without it, some lives are being shortened. 
  • As a remote rural community, these islands have always faced significant challenges with social isolation, leading to high incidences of mental health challenges, addiction and suicide.  Lockdown will be enhancing this harm, especially around mental health and alcohol addiction.  This is made worse because many of the most isolated do not have good internet access.  However, while enhancing internet access would be beneficial, it will not solve this challenge – many of these isolated individuals need real social interaction.
  • Because of the higher proportion of elderly people within our island communities, we have a greater number of deaths.  Within our close-knit communities large funerals are a major means to process grief, and the very tight restrictions on funerals is a significant source of distress.
  • Finally, there is significant evidence internationally that lockdowns can cause long-term harm to some children.  While those children who were already identified as particularly vulnerable before the pandemic may be receiving special support, there will be other families who are finding the combination of lockdown, home educating, financial pressures, etc. particularly challenging but will not be coming forward or presenting for special support.  Because many islanders work off shore, some families have been separated, leaving just one parent to look after the children during lockdown.  And key to the healthy development of all children is positive social interaction with other children.  Again, these harms being caused to our children cannot be quantified, and may only be seen in years to come.
  • In addition to these negative health outcomes, lockdown is making crofting, which is at the very heart of our communities and local economies (contributing about £4m each year to Uist and Barra alone), very challenging.  Crofting relies heavily on shared labour within communities.  Spring is one of the busiest seasons for crofting, so easing restrictions would deliver significant help.

This list makes all the clearer that the primary trade-off we face as island communities is between protecting ourselves from Covid and reducing the significant harm being caused by lockdown.

Easing lockdown restrictions, for example allowing greater interaction between small numbers of households, or allowing small groups to meet, potentially outdoors, would greatly help with many of the challenges listed above, from the elderly to children.

But if we ease lockdown restrictions, then we must continue to protect vulnerable people, and without isolating them even further in comparison to the rest of the community.  This will need:

  • Continuing travel restrictions between the mainland and the islands.  This includes self-isolation for any islanders returning from hospital appointments on the mainland.  This is particularly challenging for vulnerable patients returning, and the more testing can reduce the need and length for self-isolation, the better.
  • Continuing measures in supermarkets and other shops to reduce the likelihood of spreading Covid.  In our island communities, almost all households use the same small number of shops.  If these shops became contaminated, the virus would quickly spread.

If we extend lockdown conditions, or even reduce restrictions slightly, then we must all work proactively to better address the challenges.  For example,

  • GP practices might proactively contact patients to check whether they have non-Covid symptoms that they are not coming forward with.
  • Mechanisms to enhance social interaction for particularly isolated individuals, from the elderly to those challenged by addiction, should be developed. 
  • Somewhat larger funerals should be allowed, providing social distancing at the funerals is maintained. 
  • Easing restrictions on diy, gardening and related supplies would provide much greater opportunity to do productive things that add focus and meaning to isolated lives during lockdown.

Positive news, resilience and island life beyond the crisis

… were some of the key themes in responses to CoDeL’s survey, targeted in particular at younger islanders on Uist and Barra.  Here are some examples:

Resilience and social innovation would be particularly relevent to the current situation.

I’m sure your groups have covered resilience before, looking for more positive notes now is the time for the global population to wake up to the importance of our native and natural habitats, being environmentally aware, sustainable and not pushing mother nature to the limits that triggered this crisis. Uist is already doing well here, … what more can be done?

I think focussing on good news island stories around local economy and work, what you are already good at would be the best positive message at this time.

Strategies for staying strong, financial support for social enterprise resilience, positive messages.

It would be valuable to talk about how the current crisis could be used for positive social change after the crisis is over so we don’t just go back to how things were.

peer to peer learning is very valuable. What we want for our communities once this is all over. How to make it through.

I think looking at the wider economic potential in a positive light would be worthwhile.

How to organise mutual aid in situations like the current crisis. Finding ways in which we can collaborate beyond the crisis would also be helpful – whether pooling our resources and skills to organise creative get-togethers for the community to combat the lingering emotional impact of isolation, or to find new ways of working.

The survey sought views on what CoDeL as an organisation rooted in an island community could deliver over the internet during lockdown, to continue the work of the Smart Islands project.

Following the lead of the Social Enterprise Academy, CoDeL is primarily offering open sessions over Zoom. There was some interest in sessions and webinars on specific learning topics, and in one-to-one or small group coaching. There was far more interest in ‘open space’ sessions allowing peers to meet and share. In our next post we will report on the outcomes of the first of these sessions which are being held fortnightly.

Even before the Covid crisis, there was particular interest and energy for networking around issues of mental health, and this has become all the more important during lockdown: “I think it’s taking strain on each of us in varied and multiple ways.” So on the alternate weeks we will be organising ‘open space’ sessions focusing on mental health.

Grimsay Island Gathering shines a light on island renewal

Fifty Scottish and Irish islanders gathered last week in Grimsay, North Uist to focus in particular on the contributions of younger islanders in renewing island life and contributing to sustainable island communities.

For a whole morning (of Wednesday 2nd October), 10 enterprising young islanders, most in their 20s and 30s, told of the often remarkable personal journeys that brought them to Uist, whether returning to their island home from the mainland or as far afield as Kenya, or being inspired to make Uist their new home. And they introduced all the participants to their business in Uist as founders of start-up enterprises or social enterprises like the North Uist Distillery, the Scandinavian Bakery, Uist Forest Retreat and an outdoor nursery, developing community sports, reviving a community charity that almost went under, as a climate change artist, or as a young leader seeking to tackle the shortage of appropriate housing that is preventing more people returning or settling. Continue reading “Grimsay Island Gathering shines a light on island renewal”

The Islands Revival Declaration

The Declaration appeared this week, on the Islands Revival blog. The joint statement issued by research institutes, community groups and public sector organisations begins: “We affirm that there is credible evidence of ‘green shoots’ of population turnaround in the Scottish islands, which as yet does not show up in official statistics.

The population of West Harris has increased by 27% since 2012, that of Eigg by well over 50% since the buy-out in 1997. The population of Colonsay has been growing since 1991, while Westray in Orkney registered growth for the first time in 2011. Kerera has doubled its population in the last 8 years. Iona, Ulva Ferry on Mull have dramatically increased their primary school rolls, while primary school rolls in the Outer Hebrides have been maintained since 2011 suggesting that a key younger demographic group (parents with young children) is being sustained across this large island group.

Why is this happening? Read the Declaration for suggestions, and the blog posts for the detail. You can also look at the press release from the James Hutton Institute.

CoDeL is delighted to have been working with the James Hutton Institute, the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) and Community Land Scotland on this project, which first emerged from our research on young people returning, staying or settling on Uist. Turnaround is not just happening on Uist, but also on many islands both in Scotland and abroad.