The Commons and the Collective Imagination
There is much discussion on Scottish independence. Independence could be a great thing or it could create another lair of detached money grabbing bureaucrats. We need to look after what we already have. If we can’t understand and protect our commons what do we replace neoliberal policies with in our new government?
Folk may say there are other more important things to think about than the common good. But in times of strife it is very important to keep a focus on what we care about, some common vision. The thing is, folk need a concrete idea in their life; if we are to build understanding, participation, and community resilience to the neoliberal onslaught on the stability of these lives. Something that is rooted in their day to day worries and common concerns. Why should we succeed if there is not?
The Common Good Fund is something past generations used to take for granted. It consists of a whole range of assets, buildings, land, artworks, gifts to the city and such like and things that are free to the public. Geographically they exist to varying values and awareness all over Scotland.
I became interested when the leader of Glasgow City Council announced that the management Glasgow’s Common Good assets, museums, libraries, social and community policy and much more, would be transferred completely from the council to what was then, Culture and Sport Glasgow, and now Glasgow Life. The decision to transfer control of Glasgow’s treasured heritage and future social policy was taken without any consultation, discussion or debate involving or including the people of Glasgow.
The decision was taken by Stephen Purcell the then council leader and some business consultants, who had little to do with culture or sport. Why this was allowed to happen and was exercised so easily has perplexed me for the last 6 years or so. Unfortunately since then much more of our cultural and basic social structure has fallen to privatisation – and it is not stopping.
We are finding our community centres and facilities which used to offered cheap space to hold meetings are finding small groups paying commercial rent and management cherry picking on who has the right attitude to be allowed to use space and at what cost. We can hold meetings on the bedroom tax if we can afford the community centre tax.
It is not difficult to convince folk of the idea of the commons, they generally quite like the idea. It doesn’t come disguised in the baggage of political ideology. More a way of building strategy through doing things rather than listening to pre-packaged ideas of how and what should be done by professionals.
If we have a common good fund that exists all over Scotland, has laws to protect it. We could ask. Why are we not using it as a civic tool of communication, discussion, support for the issues we have to deal with in our communities whether they be in a village in the highlands or areas of the inner city?
How do we decide what is common good and not. It is often said this is land/building is part of the common good fund, but this, here, belongs to the council. Which begs the question who does the council belong to? Are not all of our public resources part of a common good?
Common Good project – Glasgow and the renovation of the farmhouse building on common good land in Govan could be a developing ground for such ideas and could be a template that others could use in reconnecting common good land, buildings and assets in their community. There are examples such as this all over the place, we can talk about.
The Kinning Park Complex where this event will be held is an example of a commons project. The centre was not a kind gift from above, but had to be taken, developed and organised by the community against the threat of eviction and closure. The centre is still under threat of eviction by the outside bodies set up by Glasgow City Council, to collect rent within the ongoing privatisation of the cities common good.
So what is this meet about?
Wee intro to common good fund and how can our communities be reconnected to our commons. What kind of imagination, collaborations, practical ideas and strategies can we build into what we already have around us to raise the profile and to take back the commons.
The following links contain a pile information on all kinds of aspects of the common good. But this gig is about how we can interface with ordinary folk (like me, who do not have the time to study all of this stuff). Ideas about how they can become involved and be helped in articulating common good information around things that are both relevant and that they can act on.
If you haven’t a clue what any of this is about – If you would like to contribute something specific or would like to help out in any way (organising) let me know. Please forward. In the common good.
Scottish Commons: http://www.scottishcommons.org/
Common Good Project – Glasgow: http://comglas.co.uk/
The New Bohemia: http://www.variant.org.uk/32texts/CSG.html
Common Weal discussion paper: http://reidfoundation.org/common-weal/