Tuesday, 12 May 2015
So it's started already. Hardly the ink dry on the election result and some MPs already banging on about "Europe". If this goes on like this, I will be one of those wanting an early referendum to get it over with. Whilst this is an important issue there will be many more key priorities for our sector, not least the attempt to abolish human rights legislation, attack charity campaigning, cuts to welfare and changes to the public sector. Some maybe positive, but not all.
As it happens I am at a Euclid conference looking at "Strategic Leadership in turbulent times" in Europe. Euclid was set up in 2007 as a network of European third sector leaders to provide mutual support and learning, and act as a catalyst for social change across Europe. We meet in the great Catalonian city of Barcelona. Parallels with the Scottish question as there is a strong Catalan independence movement but with a Spanish government determined not to grant autonomy or even a referendum. One of my colleagues here is Pat Armstrong of ACOSVO, our Scottish sister organisation and we have been chatting! We will want to form a good alliance with the SNP on sector matters that come before Parliament. Not something we had thought we would be doing!
But interestingly, although the demand for reform is often couched in ultra English nationalist terms we do see across Europe a desire for less centralised, bureaucratic European institutions and more localism and decentralisation. The cause that the government is espousing is one that many third sector organisations will recognise. Reforms that devolve power to communities and away from Brussels are ones the third sector should support. I'm pleased to see Greg Clark at DCLG as he has a strong and firm belief in localism but with a localism that strengthens communities and the third sector. Not just councils. This idea needs to be mirrored in a wider European approach.
Being in Barcelona, though but for a short time, is a delight. Our Euclid contingent is based at a hotel (modest as you would expect) near to the wonderful Gaudi Basilica of the Sacred Family. I went to Mass there this morning in the small crypt, which also contains the Gaudi tomb. It's a wonderful and exuberant reinterpretation of Gothic. When I was last here some 20 years ago the roof was still not on. Now it is and indeed it now costs you 15 euros to see inside, where I remember walking around a building site for free! Mind you ,they are still working on it! As you can see.