Derelict Land Survey

Fife has lots of derelict or unused land and buildings which could be put to constructive community use. This survey aims to link up people, land and ideas, enabling communities to take control.

Please take a minute to fill in our survey. You can fill it in more than once if you have more than one site to tell us about.

For reference, you might like to look at Fife Council’s Derelict Land Audit, 2015.

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Diversity and Critical Friends: Why Disagreement is Healthy

Clear Day's Dawning

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”  Ani di Franco


“Don’t criticise the SNP”, come the cries. “Wait for Independence” and “Don’t split the movement”.

Hold on a minute – the broad Yes Campaign was always internally critical.  It was the different views of what Independence was and what it could lead to that turned a dry constitutional question into one about jobs, public services, communities, equality and the kind of Scotland we want.  Wrestling politics free of the stale, top-down model, we found our voice, more precisely our voices, and we’re not going to shut up now.

Of course, the SNP were the biggest beneficiary from this in terms of members and in terms of their success in the General Election but therein lies the challenge.  Can the actions of the party match the rhetoric and match the…

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Keeping Fife Libraries Open

Libraries (2)

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” – Andrew Carnegie

There are many reasons why public libraries are an important service to maintain in the face of the austerity agenda currently sweeping across these Isles. A primary one is the opportunity they extend to children to access a wide range of books. As one parent who has contacted our Facebook campaign page has told us, “the library provides an essential resource for developing not only my daughter’s education but also her social interaction, communication skills, respect & understanding of community. Closing libraries destroys communities & relationships as well as undermining education & causes corrosive social isolation.”

Not only this, libraries provide a crucial link toward digital inclusion. This is a matter of social justice and especially important at a time of high un- and underemployment, when people are scrambling for employment opportunities and require the use of the internet in order to access these opportunities. This is especially the case for people living in more rural communities where many of these closures are mooted. Closing these libraries effectively levies a tax on people in these communities as they will be forced to take public transport to libraries in the larger towns of Fife. And believe us when we say public transport in Fife is not cheap – this will place an enormous strain on already stretched budgets for those in the position of relying on social security payments and who rely on internet access at local libraries.

This is before we even consider the cost of books to people and the saving we all make when we invest together in public borrowing opportunities – access to knowledge – and this is something we cannot put a price on. At a much more fundamental level libraries are a site of cultural enrichment and there is no economic price we can realistically place on them. They are a ‘soft target’ – and one of the first places to come into the cross-hairs in a time of economic stringency. Institutions such as libraries provide a focal point for communities and communities with resources such as libraries are that much stronger with them and can provide a platform to bounce back from economic downturns. Libraries are one of the few community spaces we have left, a place where people can come together – and libraries provide all sorts of services beyond books and access to computers. Many of the libraries in Fife have book clubs, provide book ‘prescriptions’ for people with health issues, children’s groups and IT training sessions – facilities and services which appeal to people of every age. They bring people together. They are part of the fabric that creates that thing called society which we will lament when it is gone. Austerity is a very real threat to that and the closure of libraries is one part of a greater struggle – and an important one at that.


Members of Common Weal Fife decided to get involved as the closure of libraries is ultimately an issue of social justice, the fundamental issue which our group is motivated by. It was also identified as an issue which transcends political boundaries and unites the communities involved. Young and old, parents, single people, working people and unemployed (for various reasons) – the closure of our public libraries affects everyone as has been shown by the enormous range of people who have contacted us with support. Why should our public services suffer for the economic mismanagement of those at the top? Why should a key site of cultural enrichment come into the firing line because of the behaviour and failures of the people who caused economic catastrophe? Bottom line – it shouldn’t.

If people want to get involved you can sign our petition or ‘like’ our Facebook page and get in touch with us if you can lend a hand – we are always looking for support and testimonials from library users in Fife – how they use the library and what it would mean to them if it closed. There are many groups and individuals supporting the campaign – youth parliamentarians, local councillors, the local SSP branch as well as the huge support we have received on our Facebook page and the petition site. We are enormously grateful for the support so far. We are out and about across Fife over the next month at various summer public events with the petition so if people want to get involved they can get in touch with us. The consultation period has already started and closes in August so there is not much time left.

Libraries provide and generate a different kind of ‘value’ to that which our current system likes to measure. This is something that goes beyond economics and is impossible to measure accurately. It’s about enlightenment, it’s about culture, it’s about knowledge and it’s about a notion of that slippery concept ‘community’.  These are things which should be jealously guarded – especially at a time of austerity as it’s these things that we can all celebrate – rich and poor, young and old, whatever our backgrounds and whatever our circumstances. Where austerity divides us, these things can unite us all.

Alan Mackie

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Peter Lomas – Some Food for Thought

Pic from Zimbio

Alan – this is a response to your Facebook piece of last Sunday.
I’ve computed the SNP wins in the General Election and the average majority is 10,013 per seat.  This is far and away beyond a landslide, particularly when you think that many of the majorities overturned were themselves of the order of 10-15,000, notably in Glasgow.  And in view of the majorities in the single seats won by each of the other parties (817 for LD in Orkney, 798 Con in Dumfriesshire, 2637 Labour in Edinburgh South), if 4,500 votes had gone the other way – out of 1.4m – the SNP would have won all the seats in Scotland.  Surely this means that if the SNP plays its cards right, the voters will never go back to Labour.  I feel very confident of Nicola’s judgment in this regard.
Other statistics I’ve been considering arise from the three-university post-mortem analysis of the independence referendum, at 
From this some interesting facts emerge:
1. 52.7% of voters born in Scotland voted Yes.
2. 72.1% of voters born ‘in the rest of the UK’ voted No. Such voters were 344,000 in total or just under 10% of the ‘electorate’.
3. A majority of 16-18-year-olds voted No.
Finally, let me mention the Spanish lecturer at St Andrews University of my acquaintance who voted No – thus cancelling out my Yes vote – because she was opposed to Basque and Catalan separatism in Spain – even though the Spanish government had already ruled out a referendum in those regions in which, say, a Scottish resident of Barcelona might have had a vote.  Definitely an illegitimate No, in my eyes.   Food for thought in deciding who will be the referendum ‘electorate’ next time round.
Issues we will have to look out for over the next few years are:
  • Trident – where the SNP will be outvoted by Lab/Con/Lib, but will gain credit as the only party opposed; 
  • The in-out referendum on the EU (threatening, but unlikely to result in an ‘out’ vote and the possibility of SNP UDI to stay in the EU); 
  • the Human Rights Act, where the SNP will have to act fast and firmly to invoke the Sewell Commission and to stop it applying in Scotland.
For my part, I’m hard put to imagine which of these, or which other conceivable event, would constitute the ‘significant change in circumstances’ that Nicola would see as calling for a second referendum.  Incidentally, unlike Salmond she did not say, in the 2014 referendum campaign, that the vote was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ decision.  It was a random remark by Salmond, and when she was confronted with it later in the same day she looked genuinely surprised and politely disagreed, muttering something about ‘five years maybe’.  Only loyalty to Salmond has kept her from recalling this, and it’s still a monkey on the SNP’s back, which all the UK media and hostile parties exploited to the hilt during the campaign.
Another thing – don’t mistake the media for English opinion.  I was recently in the south of England for two weeks and I detect a shift of opinion down South on Scottish independence since the referendum.  Many more people seem reconciled to the prospect.  Some say ‘Good luck to you.’  The idea that Scots are being ‘disloyal’, for whatever force it had, has weakened.  Open-minded people are heartened by many of the SNP stances. All in all though, I think that Ed Miliband was still too New Labour to be a worthy partner.  After all, he chose to believe the Daily Telegraph smear that Nicola had maligned him to the French ambassador.  He chose to do this for opportunistic electoral reasons, instead of waiting for the truth to come out.  That makes him unreliable, in my eyes.
Gordon Wilson said on TV that the next referendum would come ‘between 5 and 20 years’.  I think he has his ear to the ground – after all, he’s old enough now not to see another 20 years.  He also said that the important thing for the SNP is not to hold another referendum, but to win it.  But a lengthy good political record by the SNP at both Holyrood and Westminster is definitely a way to ensure that.
Finally, I hope that the steam hasn’t gone out of Common Weal. We must keep going for the long haul.

Peter Lomas

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A wee article on the General Election

As an SNP member and someone who worked in the successful campaign to get Roger Mullin elected here in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, the election was nothing short of breathtaking. I’ll be honest and say that I did not expect the result we achieved – the fact it wasn’t even close in the end is stunning. The whole night was extraordinary. When the exit poll was announced my friends and I scoffed – and when Nicola Sturgeon tweeted advising caution at its prediction, we agreed. “58 seats? Nah. We’ll take 31, but 40 would be nice!”

Of course, in the end the exit poll wasn’t far off and delivered the most remarkable of results. As the big beasts of Labour and the Lib Dems fell, the disbelief rapidly fell away into bleary-eyed contentment. The wee hours welcomed a sense of a job well done and a realisation that Scotland is now utterly changed. There is no going back to Labour hegemony now, you sense. The landscape has shifted.

I’ll admit to taking real pleasure in the decimation of the Lib Dems – not just in Scotland but across the UK. There are two main reasons for this. First is the absolute failure of their leadership to accept their duplicity and complicity in the regressive measures felt by the most vulnerable across these Isles over the past five years. We keep hearing about their ‘pride’ in ‘providing a service’ to our nation. Clegg, in his resignation speech, spoke about how history will remember their role more kindly than the electorate. What disdain for us he must have. History will remember his appalling ‘im sorry’ video – released whilst his party willingly participated in the bedroom tax, the welfare cap and the craven capitulation on tuition fees.

The second reason is their juvenile assessment of what is going on in Scotland right now. Clegg spoke of ‘fear and division’ winning the night, as he has spoken about the SNP winning on the back of ‘fear and grievance.’ In this he shows such a lack of understanding about what has been happening now and particularly over the past year or so. It is difficult to imagine that he is being anything other than wilfully ignorant. I’ve had a brief discussion on Twitter about this issue with their leader-in-waiting Tim Farron and he too seems to share Clegg’s childish assessment. This does not bode well for the Lib Dems. Along with their cynical and desperate courting of tactical voting in the election (i’m looking at Jardine and Swinson here), their demise recieived some of the loudest cheers amongst my friends on election night. They will struggle to fight back in Scotland unless they begin to understand that the rise of the SNP is about more than narrow-minded, flag-waving and tribal nationalism.

The demise of Labour still doesn’t give me much in the way of real pleasure. Scotland should have a party which represents the working class and whose primary function is to represent people in work, looking for work and those without the means to do so. Labour have abandoned that ground and the SNP have skilfully occupied it – particularly so in the short time that Sturgeon has been at the helm. It was clear from the brief amount of canvassing I did that people are far more willing to back the SNP with Sturgeon at the helm than if Salmond had still been there. Michael Connarty, who gave one of the most dismissive and bitter interviews on election night, seemed to suggest that Scotland had been suckered into some sort of personality cult around Sturgeon. Again, such a miserable analysis deserves short shrift. The people of Scotland are nothing if not canny, and particularly so since the referendum. The SNP have occupied the space Labour one held tightly. The likes of Connarty cannot countenance this and their bile runneth over. I’m glad he was bundled.

One thing that does frustrate is the oft-repeated charge from Labour that somehow the SNP let the Tories in – that the rise of the SNP allowed the Tories to frighten English voters with the prospect of Ed being in the pocket of, firstly, Salmond and post-debate, Sturgeon. As Ian Bell writes in the Sunday Herald, such a position seems to suggest that Labour are saying that Scottish voters should decline the overtures of a legitimate party and ‘declare themselves subordinate to the prejudices of English voters.’ If this is the case, of course, then what is the point of the Union? If English voters won’t tolerate our elected officials having influence then that path leads to one door – Independence.

Of course attention must be paid to the bile that came our way from both the Conservatives and the right-wing media during the election. One only has to recall the fears of Boris Johnson at the coming ‘ajockalypse.’ And it’s the SNP cybernats that are are the small-minded, divisive and abusive people allegedly! I read an article which suggested that anti-Scots feeling is running high in certain circles down south now. That the PM himself participated so wilfuly in this will surely have tainted him in the eyes of many Scots. He spoke just after the election of wanting to govern as ‘one nation.’ The level of brass neck required to state this having painted the prospect of Scots electing SNP parliamentarians as dangerous (we’d blackmail Ed!) and somehow illegitimate is nothing short of astounding. Cameron should apologise to Scots for the bilious campaign he and his party ran.

That it was ultimately successful brings a great sadness. What do we have to look forward to over the next five years? A Conservative party with a majority should frighten us all. Massive cuts to welfare are undoubtedly coming, but where? Child benefit? And what else? Another VAT rise? For sure there are measures coming which should chill the bones of any progressive; young people will be denied housing benefit and compelled to work for the most risible of social security. Trident will go ahead. The abolition of the Human Rights Act is in their sights. And, for goodness sake, the return of fox hunting. And so much more. And no mistake should be made here – nobody has been duped. The Tories have been voted in and those that voted for them did so under no illusion of what they are about. It is that which chills me the most.

The new contingent of SNP MPs are going to have a tough time ahead of them. Ultimately the Conservatives can ride roughshod over everyone else in parliament. But in no way should any SNP voter regret their decision to elect an SNP MP. I’d much rather have a noisy SNP MP resisting the coming tidal wave of regression than the at-times utterly supine Labour representation we’ve had in parliament, who voted with the Tories in their last budget, who were absent on fracking, and who agreed with the Tories on Trident. And it seems the overwhelming majority of voting Scots feel the same. As such, the SNP must step up and resist these and other measures. They must make it impossible for the goverment to simply ignore them and ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard loud and clear in parliament as a progressive voice for the whole of these Isles. If Labour lurch to the right as it looks increasingly like they might, then they might be the only sizeable bloc of progressives left in the house. Interesting times lie ahead, for sure.

Alan Mackie, Sunday 10th May

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Socialism, SNP and the Dance of the Left

As we enter the final week before the General Election, I have been reflecting on how much things have changed.

Since well before I was first active in politics in the 1980s, the left as a whole has been a fragmented affair with major disagreements between different organisations, usually over theoretical matters entirely incomprehensible to most people. The result has usually been acrimony and a distinct inability to build meaningful and sustainable alliances to effect real change and challenge the orthodoxies that capitalist societies deem to be normal.

Each organisation thinks it has the one true vision and, instead a spectrum of ideas which complement each other or which can inform better ideas, a myopic stance emerges. Periods of periodic success have bred a culture where having got something right means that the organisation’s views on everything else must also be correct and unchallengeable.

The problem, as I see it, with purists is that they don’t use theory as a tool but let it function as a straitjacket. They lose the ability to effect real change on the ground by boxing themselves into irrelevant corners. Occasionally their approach may chime with a real issue but, more often than not, it’s a circular conversation which involves only those already involved.

Since the referendum in particular, the debate now is much looser and the ability of people to work with people they don’t agree with 100% has improved as a result. Parties, organisations and individuals involved in this have found a very different dynamic in play.

I still remember holding my nose and voting Labour while they were expelling good socialists from the party. This was voting for something you didn’t agree with because the alternative was far worse. There was still also the fanciful notion that Labour could be saved.  Critical support of the SNP at the ballot box is a much more positive and engaged affair. It’s a recognition that they now fill a major chunk of the void that was left on the left when Labour left town. However, they are not the only show in town and need to be reminded of this fact.

More importantly most people seem quite happy ignoring party lines. Voting for a party or even signing up as a member is not the end of the conversation, and not a barrier to it either. We have multiple layers of identity, opinion and aspiration and should see ourselves the richer for it.

The organic growth of the Common Weal, from think-and-do tank to network of groups and the prospect of the Scottish Left Project achieving a meaningful reconfiguration of left politics nationally are two examples of this.

It’s this which has brought me back into active politics and I feel much more optimistic than I ever have that a broad movement, built from the bottom up, is emerging and continually wrong-footing the old guard, both within Establishment circles and within entrenched areas within the existing left. There will be wrong-turns ahead, without doubt, but the question is whether those across progressive spectrum are now confident enough to ride those waves.

The referendum campaign gave us a glimpse of how politics can be different. Let’s get on and do it!

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Here come the girls

The Wee Ginger Dug gives the definitive (and hilarious) account of the leaders’ debate.

Wee Ginger Dug

So let’s have a heated debate! The party leaders lined up on Thursday evening to take turns at bashing David Cameron, because, let’s face it, he deserves it. It looked a bit like an afternoon gameshow, which to be honest isn’t far off the mark. It’s just seven to one instead of fifteen to one.

Quite shockingly, when reading the leaders’ biographies before the gameshow – sorry, the debate – I discovered that I am older than all seven of the party leaders and I’m not even that close to claiming my alicsammin buspass. But I’m even older than Nigel, which is gobsmacking, since I had always thought that Nigel Farage had been brought to us from the 1950s.

The three female leaders were there too, invited only because the broadcasters ran out of excuses not to invite any women after insisting that Nigel Farage had to be there because…

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To those about to be elected, some advice and a warning, should it be required

For they still prefer sheep to thinking men
Ah, but men who think like sheep are even better
(Brian McNeill)

You are about to take part in an election like no other in recent memory. You should be aware that many of the old rules don’t apply. You should be aware that we are watching you, watching you because we are awake, watching you because the power you may gain will be on loan from us, and you had better take heed.

We are on a journey, one that didn’t end on the day of 45%. We did not go back to our homes, our mind-numbing TV or our breakfast cereal and forget. We did not resign ourselves to second best and give up. In our homes, our organisations and communities the dream and the reason for it drives us even stronger.  As the morning after dawns and the numbers come in, which ever way the dice fall, we are still here.

If you think that politics is all about your party, you are wrong. If you think your loyalty is to your fellow MPs, you are wrong. If you think that you election gives you special rights to decide our futures with no regard for us, you are wrong.

To those who enter this lion’s den with the best of intentions, beware. It is designed to sap your strength, your will, your judgement until you play only by its rules. Remember, your power derives from us. Keep that thought foremost. Remember!

To those of a less scrupulous bent, you cannot hide. Our eyes now see into these shadows. We will not rest until we have a true government off the people, for the people and by the people.

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Crossing the Line

I am inspired and proud
of those whose voices
speak the language
of a new democratic
politic of the people
rooted in honesty and respect,
justice and integrity …..
a world
away from westminster’s
web of deceit

But online
and elsewhere
the trolls continue
to do their rounds
spreading vitriol

And tangled threads
of name calling
and cussing
and ill wishes
and lies
and rumours
and mis-leading
headings and information
are become common place……

In spin city, in the land
of better together
I hear the posse
laughing and shouting
divide and rule
haar haar haar
business as usual then!
it gives me the boak!

A new and democratic
politic of the people……
it’s our choice!

Maureen Matthews 2015

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Days Like These

with apologies to Billy Bragg, my crude attempt to rework his song – the last verse is his, not mine, but I think fits well

Days Like These

The party built to represent us
Now backs the other side
The neo-liberal consensus
To the ‘extreme centre’ is tied
While cuts pour down upon us
Like a storm of winter rain
Austerity’s disciples
Are shielded from the pain

They need bigger salaries
While for us it’s cuts in pay
Schools, benefits and NHS
Are privatised away
And labour, with a small ‘l’
Cries in front of the TV
Sold out yet another time
When are they going to see?

In post-referendum Scotland
We haven’t gone away
The No vote didn’t quell our wish
To bring in that better day
Learn lessons from the past but
Push ahead for something new
No carping from the sidelines
Work together, see it through

Peace, bread, work and freedom
Are the best we can achieve
And wearing badges is not enough
In days like these

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