Young views reflected in CoDeL’s submission to the Scottish Covid-19 consultation

The uploaded document reflects discussion among community representatives on Uist and Barra, a majority of them young leaders and other younger islanders, facilitated by CoDeL.

The document does NOT represent the views of the participants in these discussions. The community discussions suggest that there is unlikely to be a consensus on how to proceed. Different members of the community have different experiences under lockdown, and above all face different risks within their family and community networks.

“Most people I speak to individually want lockdown to be eased, but this is not reflected in the public debate.”

“I have people within my family who are very at risk. The last thing I want is for lockdown to be eased now.”

CoDel response to Covid 19 Framework

The facilitated discussions nevertheless suggest that it is possible to have constructive discussions on the challenges at a community level, to enable people to express their opinions and for others to hear them, and for people to adapt their views accordingly. This is particularly important when some people’s views are amplified within media and social media, while many members of island communities do not air their views publicly even if, or perhaps especially if, they diverge from what is being articulated by others publicly.

The document looks at travel restrictions and testing, … challenges the focus on health vs economy, … includes tourism, crofting and other parts of local island economies, … considers the potential for localised approaches to lockdown, … and makes a range of suggestions.

A second post will explore in particular some of the potential harms being caused by lockdown on the islands, and in most other communities, too.

Island resilience in practice

Recently we held the first Uist Open Space session on zoom. What a positive experience. Yes, we all face challenges under lockdown. And yet we also shared so many positive actions already happening within the community to support each other, and many ideas for future actions and development.

Current positive actions:

  • A new housing group for Uist and Barra, currently with 3 councillors and 3 younger people, half men, half women, to access funding for and steer a new post to address the housing shortage that is preventing more younger people from staying, returning or settling on Uist.
  • The launch of the Psychological Wellbeing Hub with 30 psychological first-aiders across the Western Isles
  • Support for people to get connected, to boost data packages, etc through Cothrom
  • The work of the Cuimhne project supporting those with dementia, their families and carers, whose workers are now recognised as essential workers and so able to visit people with dementia
  • The work of Resilient Uist
  • On-line classes (e.g. gentle exercise, Irish and Highland dancing)
  • The work of the Tagsa horticulture project in providing seedlings
  • Kallin Harbour doing well out of selling fish locally
  • Langass Lodge offering eggs in telephone kiosk at Clachan to raise money for Tagsa
  • A planned virtual ceilidh of Uist musicians

Some future plans:

  • Support to identify employment opportunities for young people (funding support for young people into work is currently more flexible) (contact kirsty.maccormick@cothrom.net)
  • An open space group to share and explore mental health issues, which will meet once a fortnight over zoom (contact Rona at sineag1@yahoo.co.uk and/or thomas.fisher@mailbox.org )
  • A hope wall in the supermarkets and on facebook for people to put up their hopes, pictures, poems, etc. (contact tracy@tagsauibhist.co.uk)
  • A group/project or other vehicle to develop ideas and actions to make Uist communities and local economy more sustainable beyond the Covid-19 crisis (contact theonasandbank@gmail.com and/or thomas.fisher@mailbox.org)

We are sure that similar initiatives are happening on Scottish islands and internationally also, and across islands. We can all still buy products from Scottish Islands at Isle20.

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.

Islands’ Social Capital

The Islands revival is being driven by the amazing social capital that islands deliver, which is encouraging people to return, settle and stay. The above average levels of social capital present in the islands has been evidenced by a recent report by the Scottish Government.

Social capital is the social connections that contribute to people’s quality of life, health, safety, economy and well-being in the neighborhoods where they live. These social connections are a source of support through people’s lives, for instance, in education, workplaces, retirement and leisure.

Continue reading “Islands’ Social Capital”

CoDeL to present at ISISA 2020

Representatives from CoDeL have been asked to present at the International Small Island Studies Association 2020 conference in Newfoundland in June.

Newfoundland, an island at the eastern end of the Canadian Maritimes, shares similar concerns regarding outmigration and climate change resilience.

Irish flexible working initiative expands to Scotland

The community project Grow Remote started as a WhatsApp group connecting workers in remote areas of Ireland with employment opportunities, and has now secured €500,000 in funding from the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, managed by Enterprise Ireland. 

With intentions to use the funds (and matched funding received from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and Western Development Commission) on hiring staff for the 60+ local chapters and 10,000 members, the not-for-profit is now also expanding to Scotland, with a chapter currently being set up in Edinburgh.
 
With the expansion of superfast broadband to rural and remote areas, working opportunities which were previously unavailable to residents of these areas are now more accessible – particularly with the help of project such as Grow Remote. 

CoDeL presents to the Cross-Party Group on Rural Policy at the Scottish Parliament

CoDeL was invited to present on the Uist experience to the Cross-Party Group at the end of October 2019.  This was an opportunity to present evidence rooted in island experience at the micro-level as a counterpoint to national projections, based on historic trends, which are particularly dire for the Western Isles. 

This reinforced the insights from the Islands Revival Declaration: ‘We affirm 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 full report can be downloaded and read here:

Additional information regarding the day, including the other participants, can be seen on the SRUC website.

Members of the SG Islands Team trying baking from The Scandinavian Bakery in the Isle of Grimsay, October 2019.

Contributing to a solution: Housing in Uist

At the request of Cllr Iain MacNeil, a seminar on housing in Uist and Barra was held on the 14th of November 2019 in Lìonacleit, Benbecula, to re-energise the public sector-led approach and promote cooperation through a new policy framework for the area.

The Uist Collective: Uibhistich Òga, a group formed following CoDeL’s Young Leaders programme in 2019, was asked to set the scene for the day’s discussion. The group, which is exploring means by which they can positively influence several local issues including housing, is keen to resolve the shortage of suitable houses as this is one of the key stumbling blocks inhibiting many people from returning to the island. Continue reading “Contributing to a solution: Housing in Uist”

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”