Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Common Good of Scotland

23 days to go...... Well, there is nothing to report from today`s press. So today, I will focus on The Common Good A brief introduction -

"Visit any town in Scotland and you will come across names such as Market Muir, Market Street, Muirton, Links, and Green. These all denote forms of common land such as all burghs in Scotland owned at one time. The property of the burgh was known as the common good since it was to be used for the common good of the inhabitants.

And this property still exists. It still belongs to the people and forms an important part of their cultural heritage.

It is also a significant resource for regenerating local communities. But since 1975 when Town Councils were abolished, this land has been subsumed within new local authority structures and assets that should have been carefully stewarded for the benefit of the inhabitants of the former burghs have, instead, been lost, neglected, and in many cases misappropriated.

The total reported value in the accounts of local authorities stands at just over £181 million
But given the missing assets, inaccurate accounting and lost receipts the total is probably in the region of £2 billion.

In Edinburgh, millions of pounds have gone missing and, incredibly, the former Waverley Market(now Princes Mall) in Princes Street, a common good asset worth over £40 million is leased on a 206 year lease for 1p per year!

Citizens are beginning to wake up to this hidden wealth. At the same time, communities are being empowered to take ownership and control of land and property and to fashion a more prosperous and sustainable future for themselves. However, much of this has been achieved through the allocation of money from the Lottery.

For many communities its not necessary to seek opportunities on the open market or to seek financial support from the Lottery in order to build up their asset base since common good assets already exist and could form the basis for building a multi-million property portfolio that could deliver housing, leisure and much needed community facilities."
Readfullarticle by Common Good Expert Andy Wightman

It is important to note that Common Good Assets not only includes heritable land and buildings but moveables such as paintings, books, jewellery, furniture, monuments, weaponry and fishing rights..this list is not complete

I first got involved in The Common Good when I met Common Good Expert Andy Wightman in 2005, shortly after the first Caltongate Masterplan was unveiled. Following on from this I learned that part of the proposed land sale by the council to the developers Mountgrange includes Common Good.

© Copyright: Andy Wightman

Above is East Market Street, Jeffrey St above it, with the spine of the Royal Mile visable infront of Arthurs Seat. Highlighted in red is the property on East Market Street that developers Mountgrange want to buy from the council. The building furthest to the left is The Canongate Venture, then the Former Vegetable Market (which is Common Good) and then the Market Street Arches.

When I knew this building was held on the Common Good Account of the Council, I became one of threepetitioners to The Scottish Parliament, calling on greater protection for Scotland`s Common Good.

Come and learn more and get involved in reclaiming your Common Good at at The Januaryreshuffle in Glasgow in The Pearce Institute, Govan on Saturday the 26th January.
There will be a film presenting an overview of what the Common Good is, featuring an interview with land reform activist Andy Wightman along with members of local communities involved in Common Good campaigns. There will also be a Common Good workshop along with lots of other events and activities including ones for children and tasty food on offer from The Broth Mix cafe.

If you can`t get along still get involved. Andy Wightman has produced an excellent CommonGoodGuide to get you started and you can find out more on his comprehensive website ScottishCommons