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After the referendum - What messages for community development?

September 25, 2014

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Scottish Community Development Centre reflects on the recent Scottish independence referendum and what it all means for communities.

From the perspective of community development, the most remarkable part of the independence referendum was, by almost all accounts, the engagement and mobilisation of the electorate, resulting in an unprecedented 85% turnout and equally unprecedented debate and discussion across the country.

The second most remarkable aspect was that this mobilisation was largely in the cause of the core values of community development: social democracy, equality and participation, challenging the power of vested interests and holding a vision for a better future.

These observations challenge us to pose some critical questions about community development practice including:

  • Why did it take a referendum campaign to bring out and debate critical issues in the country's circumstances?
  • Why do we hear so little about them otherwise?
  • Can the level of mobilisation be sustained?
  • What can community workers do to help?
  • How can the people who were energised turn their attention to seeking the same ends by different means?
  • Do social media change the way people are involved - and who is involved?
  • And does all this mean community development has to take a good hard look at itself and the ways it works with communities, particularly those communities that are non-geographic but networked though social media?

SCDC hopes to take part in a longer debate about these questions and others, and hopes that community workers, community organisations and others will join in. It is a great opportunity for community development, and the opportunity should be seized. In the summer we discussed ‘What Vision for Community Development in Scotland?' at a major conference. Now we are beginning to understand that vision and work towards it.

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