Big Hearted Society

I’ve had a lot of comments and several conversations regarding last week’s blog piece, most agreeing that we need to imagine, create and agitate for a Scottish alternative to the Big Society and not just stand aloof from what is going on south of the border.

I’m urged not to call it a ‘Scottish version’ – so that it is totally disassociated with the idea that society is given a bigger role specifically in order to shrink the state. Nor should the Scottish alternative repeat the oxymoron of ‘compulsory volunteering,’ or having a ‘duty to donate.’ There is also a general consensus that Scottish society has its problems, but it’s not a broken society, and needs nurturing, not ‘fixing.’

Thinking of oxymorons I was reminded of the ‘grimly gay faces’ of Wilfred Owen’s soldiers leaving for the front line while contemplating this week’s Gathering – the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations annual charity show and conference at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

I had been worried that the charitable sector had grown soft over the ‘ten good years now past’, but I’m increasingly buoyed by the resolve, passion and creativity of the civil society leaders around me.

The Scottish alternative to Big Society would be to nurture and not exploit what is already a big-hearted society, complementing but not replacing what we already pay for from our taxes. It might mean that the local library, for example, has cover from volunteers where it once was fully staffed, but done properly and with the right motivation that can become a good thing.

I am hoping that Scotland’s Christie Commission, reporting in June after the Scottish Elections, provides a starting point for the next round of government in Scotland that values and proposes that we build on the good already being done by all sectors

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