In 2011 the president of the Association of Community Councils of Scotland, Vincent Waters, predicted that within 10 years Scotland would no longer have a community of active community councils. He sees a big reason for this being that younger people are not interested in getting involved in the community councils, and so the councils are not getting new members.
According to research done by the BBC, one fifth of Scotland’s approximately 1500 community councils were suspended in 2011 due to lack of interest. That is around 300 community councils!
Of the 1200 community councils still active, 90% of them are formed without elections, and are therefore uncontested. Having an uncontested election means that many councils do not adequately represent their community. This is unhealthy for democracy within the community, and also for the reputation of the community councils.
There are only eight local areas that have a full complement of community councils. These areas include East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, the Orkney Islands, and Stirling. The Orkney Islands have the most involved community members, with 55% of the community councils having contested elections. This is the highest in the whole of Scotland.
On the other end of the involvement spectrum is Dundee. Only 15.8% of the community councils in Dundee are active and operating. Dundee is definitely an outlier as the next lowest is North Lanarkshire with 47.5% of community councils active and operating.
Michael Ross – Motherwell West councillor at the time – attributed the decline to the fact that people are working harder and have less social time than before. People will rather use their limited free time to be with their families.
The community councils do a lot to support their communities, but the councils themselves also need support. With limited government funding, it is increasingly difficult to provide the support that these vital organisations require.
Will the whole network of community councils eventually just fall apart? Only time will tell…