Uist was congratulated yesterday by Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell on its recognition as a Social Enterprise Place.
Alongside Lewis and Govan, Uist received the award at an event that was hosted by Social Enterprise Scotland on January 21st and attended by over 60 people from across the country. A presentation on the importance of social enterprise to the island was made on behalf of Uist by Thomas Fisher and can be seen here.
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 email@example.com 01851 700357 20 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DR To sign up for my newsletter, please click here
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.
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 CEISnotes “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”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Addressed to ‘all for whom sustaining Highlands and Islands communities is a concern’, the letter focuses on growing worries that rising property prices in Scotland’s Highland and Island communities are making it almost impossible for local residents to purchase homes, a pre-existing concern that is being intensified by post-Covid ‘urban flight’ and an even greater number of cash buyers seeking second homes.
The letter calls for increased support for younger generations struggling to make their homes in the Highlands and Islands and cites a recent example of a Uist rental property successfully being marketed exclusively to young locals and rented to a family with three children. In a housing market where long term rentals are almost exclusively shunned in favour of holiday lets, the letter writers point out that this could serve as a template moving forwards.
The passionate and insightful letter has prompted national and international interest. It has been mentioned in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and The Herald as well as local papers Am Paipear, The West Highland Free Press and the Stornoway Gazette. It was the top trending item on the BBC News online, has featured in Eorpa on BBC Alba, on BBC TV Scottish News and The Nine as well as on Radio Scotland, Times radio and Radio nan Gaidheal in conversations with the leader of the council and Hebridean Housing Partnership.
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!
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.
Community Engagement Officer, Uist Life: 260 hours @ £19 an hour (total £4940)
Digital Consultant, Uist Life: £7000 for 20 days or more of consulting
Website and Social Media Support, Smart Islands Project: 50 hours @ £20 an hour (total £1000)
CoDeL is leading a new European funded project to assess the economic impacts of Covid-19 on peripheral communities from eastern Finland to Prince Edward Island in Canada, and to recommend policy and action that can enable these communities to be sustainable and thrive in the future.
The partnership led by CoDeL is funded under the Covid Response Call of the European Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme and includes 6 universities or research institutes, 3 other public institutions (including NHS Highlands) and 3 business networks in the Highlands and Islands, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, all four Scandinavian countries, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
“With Brexit looming”, says CoDeL Director Thomas Fisher, “the Nordic and Arctic region and Scotland are determined to build ties to enable partnership working in the future. We are delighted that Uist in the Outer Hebrides can play a leading role in this work stretching across the whole Northern Periphery. All the partners are determined that the project draw up recommendations for economic renewal and redesign in peripheral areas that together we can implement in future. The project recommendations will influence the design of the next Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme funding round, and it is so important that Scotland has a strong voice in this.”
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.
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.