Letslink Scotland address by Jackie Baillie

“I am delighted and impressed at the success of LETS projects throughout Scotland over the past few years. The variety of different groups and the variety of services provided by different LETS are testament to the initiative, ingenuity and skills which exist in every community; large or small, urban or rural.

The themes of the LETSlink Scotland conference: Community Regeneration; Sustainable Development; Well-being & Health and Community Learning are very much in keeping with some of the fundamental principles of our social justice agenda. Because justice is about people and the places and communities where they live. It is about helping people to help themselves because communities themselves know best the problems in their areas – the gaps, the failures – and they also often have the best ideas for addressing those problems.

At present, many communities and neighbourhoods suffer from the effects of poor health, poor housing and poor education. From a lack of jobs, lack of income and poverty of opportunity. Some communities and groups face concentrations of deprivation and exclusion. But the Scottish Executive can’t solve this on its own – in helping these communities out of poverty the only way to make a lasting difference is to work side-by-side with partnership organisations.

Community groups, voluntary organisations, charities and co-operatives have traditionally made a significant contribution to Scottish life. Not only can this ‘social sector’ sometimes deliver services that the public and private sectors are unwilling or unable to provide in disadvantaged communities, these community-based organisations also engage local people in their activities.
We want to see the voluntary sector play an equal role as a social partner as the CBI, STUC and COSLA. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that this is a fairly new way of looking at voluntary and community groups. There was a time when Government saw the social sector as well intentioned but unsystematic – driven by grants and charities.

What I see is a sector which has a fundamental and creative role to play in stimulating economic activity and social cohesion in every community – especially the more disadvantaged ones.

Scottish LETS are an important part of the social sector, by helping to develop a strong sense of community.

LETS have shown how communities can be empowered and invigorated by drawing on the resources available within those communities. Well run LETS projects can encourage local co-operation, engage all sectors of the community – especially the most vulnerable – and help to promote vibrant local economies.

Perhaps there is still something of a cultural divide between Government agencies and community-based groups such as LETS. We must learn to work in a complementary way, and appreciate one another’s contribution to community development. No doubt today’s event will go a long way to help bridge that gap. Thankyou. “

Jackie Baillie – Social Justice Minister
LETSlink Scotland Conference, July 2001

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