Mike Danson sets context in keynote address to “A National Mission’ – Delivering a Just Transition to Net-Zero in Scotland’ Online event 15 Dec 2021

Professor Mike Danson will give the opening keynote address for the session on ‘A National Mission’ – Delivering a Just Transition’, as part of the Climate Emergency Series Professor Danson will set the context for the event by outlining the objectives and the content for and within the commission’s report.

When: 15th December 2021 Book your free place: http://bit.ly/justtransitiont

@HolyroodEvents @MikeDanson1

“Holyrood Events @HolyroodEvents · Join us next week for our Just Transition event, part of our Climate Emergency Series Join us along with experts including @ben_combes @MonitorDeloitte, Frances Guy @IntDevAlliance, @sustscot @EAS_Scotland & more #ScotClimateSeries”

Universal Basic Income: Mike Danson delivers ‘webinar’ talk to Green European Foundation event

Mike Danson speaks on the value of and shared learning from universal basic income models and lessons of UBI at Green European Foundation event (November 2nd 2021)

More and more pilot programs are being developed to test the idea of Universal Basic around the world. What have been the results and what lessons can we learn from them?

This event was organised by the Green European Foundation with the support of Transición Verde and with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation. (The European Parliament is not responsible for the content of this event).

For more details on this webinar event and related UBI Project focus see here:


Mike Danson : Professor Mike Danson is an economist, Professor Emeritus of Enterprise Policy, Heriot-Watt University, Visiting Professor in Energy Policy, University of Strathclyde, and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He has published widely on rural, regional and island economies, microbreweries, minority languages, and many other areas of Scottish economic policy and social development. Chair of Basic Income Network Scotland, Chair of the 2021 BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network) world congress, depute Convenor Jimmy Reid Foundation, Trustee of Nordic Horizons and Community Renewal, Mike was on the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission and has advised, national and international organisations: OECD, WHO, EC, trades unions and community groups. Mike is Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Island Studies. Contact: michael.danson@hw.ac.uk.

For more information on UBI research and policy focus in Scotland see:


SRUC Islands Webinar: Mike and Kathryn present on islands enterprise research

Enterprising Islanders. The promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building.

Danson, M. and Burnett, K.A. SRUC Islands Webinar Series Invited Talk. June 2021

Big thanks to SRUC @RuralPolicySRUC, Dr Jane Atterton and colleagues for the Islands Webinar series invitation and really great to have all questions, examples, observations, and ‘where and what next ‘comments and feedback from webinar participants.

The wealth of island community knowledge, activity and energy is crucial in any wider policy and evaluation process; so too is the opportunity to connect, bridge and share old and new history and experiences. Thank you: loads “to think with” and “to do with” together!

Please see the recent book, a collection of island studies essays for further linkages discussed in part in our talk Scotland and Islandness (2021).

See also our invitation to submit an idea or suggestion for our Tides essay series. This series in the 2020-2021 Year of Coasts and Water is just launched this month. Do look at the information on how to get in touch and offer a note of interest to contribute a short essay or commentary to our Tides focus online: scotcis.wordpress.com/tides-short-essays-and-commentaries-on-and-of-interest-to-scottish-island-studies/.

The first Tides essay was by Mike on this very theme of Enterprising Islanders. The promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building. June 1st 2021.

TIDES: Mike Danson – Enterprising islanders? A comment on the promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building.

The concentration of retailing to supermarket chains is in contrast to the promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building. The challenges to assert alternatives to this concentration have been accelerated during these times of Covid lockdowns, climate emergencies and Brexit consequences. Appreciating the diversity of challenges and potential responses across the country, Mike Danson offers a comment most especially in regard of island and rural enterprise opportunities and ambitions.

Enterprising islanders?

by Mike Danson

On a particularly wet and windy day in the Hebrides, someone brought homemade scones in for the meeting, a welcome accompaniment to the coffee. However, there were no sandwiches for lunch as ferries were stormbound and so no deliveries possible for a couple of days. Why could colleagues who baked their own scones not make bread and fill with their own ingredients? Deconstructing this brief tale exposes the vulnerabilities of being at the wrong end of extensive supply chains, dependent on distant providers, and yet unable to produce locally sustainably.

After all, crofters and farmers, as with the rest of the community on islands, must be enterprising, innovative and capable of multitasking with self-sufficiency and incomes from several sources the norm. What is limiting the establishment of new businesses to fill the gaps in supplies, substituting local production for imports from the mainland, is one of the main themes in our chapter Margins of Resilience, Sustainability and Success: Island Enterprise and Entrepreneurship[i] and there we have aimed to explain this conundrum. Underpinning the lack of bakers, dairies, butchers, and all the other traditional high street shops in remote villages and townships are the same economic forces which have emptied neighbourhood shopping centres in towns and cities across Scotland: the buying and selling powers of the oligopoly supermarkets. The privileges gained by these mega companies are based on monopoly powers in supply chains, logistics and in retailing with consequences of lower prices for consumers but narrower choices, and fearsome barriers for entry or sustainability for small and medium shops and other local suppliers. Simply, island shops and suppliers cannot compete with these multinational goliaths. Even here in the hills above Inverness, with a mixed community of fairly affluent commuters and families resident long term, the local shop is not the natural place for their daily newspapers, milk and bread: 5 miles away are Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Coop all driving down margins and destroying livelihoods.

All this concentration of retailing into these supermarket chains is in contrast to the promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building, which have been accelerated during these times of Covid lockdowns, climate emergencies and Brexit consequences. Appreciating the diversity of challenges and potential responses across the country, our final report A National Mission for a Fairer, Greener Scotland[ii] of the Just Transition Commission in April 2021 made a number of recommendations specific to these remote geographies. Supporting local economies and 20-minute neighbourhoods means encouraging quite different development paths and opportunities in urban and in island locations. Understanding these differences and similarities, and recognising and assessing the (unintended) consequences of how theories, strategies and policies apply in each was the focus of the book Peter de Souza and I edited in 2014: Regional Development in Northern Europe Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues[iii] and specifically about Scottish islands more recently[iv]. Drawing from evidence and experiences from many locations on the northern margins of Europe, we argued that communities could learn from each other across this periphery rather than from the core[v]. Ownership, use and management of local resources, and of land especially, comes out of that research quite naturally and provides a contrast and direction of travel for addressing the long-standing development of the underdevelopment[vi] of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands

The monopoly powers of landowners almost always tend to work against the interests of tenants, crofters, entrepreneurs and small populations occupying large estates as we analysed in a paper for Community Land Scotland Scoping the Classic Effects of Monopolies within Patterns of Rural Land Ownership[vii]. There and elsewhere we argued for land reform on economic grounds, releasing the enterprise and energy of the community to address market failures and to benefit locals and the nation as a whole (see our complementary study on the advantages of revealing the promises of the commons[viii]). However, simplistic cries for more community ownership and asset transfers are grossly insufficient in themselves to address lack of resilience and incapacity to confront the ongoing and increasing threats to island and remote rural lives. Just a change in ownership cannot help overcome the powerful forces of supermarkets, externally owned and managed tourism and service companies. Communities coming out from the long shadows of monopoly ownership of their land will also, and like any community but more so, suffer from internal conflicts and stresses and our analysis of the real issues around such challenges in Sutherland for example are examined here[ix]. Rather, and as we set out in a paper to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, communities which have seen their local cultures, societies and economies degraded and truncated for the last two centuries need helped, supported and encouraged to regenerate and revitalise[x].   

Where distance from distribution depots and low concentrations of demand offer insufficient margins to supermarkets even with their economies of scale and scope, then local shops and suppliers are faced with appreciably higher costs to be passed onto their customers. Over the last 50 years, greater expectations and increased opportunities on the mainland have led to changing habits amongst populations everywhere. This has had repercussions in young people’s career choices, their hopes and aspirations in terms of education, jobs, culture, health, entertainment, consumption and so on. Of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland, all but 6 lose their younger people (18-30) to the big cities especially through leaving for university, with only the commuter zones around these cities eventually recovering through older age groups (30 plus) moving out from the centres. Without ‘graduate jobs’ to return to their home communities suffer ageing, loss vitality and a downward spiral. Many decades of clearances, monopoly ownership, truncated job ladders, environmental and ecological degradation are exacerbated by these changing external forces which then impact directly on the home island. In turn this increases dependency on these same outside resources and drivers from the distant core of the economy. Concomitantly, the ever more integrated national economy diminishes local capacities to intervene or to stem these global tides leading to further decline and in turn compromising capacities to resist or mark out a better future.

Simplistic and distant calls for more community ownership and for asset transfers without addressing not only the power imbalances but also critically the need to support and rebuild resilience of remote rural and island communities actually threatens to continue and indeed exacerbate long term trends of their peripheralization and marginalisation.

Against this depressing tableau of heartache and degeneration, undoubtedly some islands and islanders have undoubtedly carved out a more prosperous situation, establishing successful businesses, networks and new niches while retaining their own identities. Islands such as Arran and the Orkney archipelago and the Sleat peninsula present interesting case studies while a number of entrepreneurs and enterprising communities have created viable and sustainable export-oriented ventures The unique selling points core to the latter companies are critically based around their ability to sell premium products into luxury markets: food and drink, experiential tourism, expensive health and cosmetic product and services. Notably, none of the examples we cite in recent publications[xi] is aiming to sell to local islanders but rather to confirm their involvement and integration into the world of high value customers wherever they may be.

In the accompanying video talk on the impacts of Brexit, the external forces acting on the islands are exaggerating all the negativities apparent in the dysfunctional and incomplete economies and communities of Scotland’s islands. It cannot be underestimated how disruption to accessing the essential markets of the agriculture, shellfish and seafish producers of the northern and western isles threatens the very existence of many businesses, crofts, farms, families and communities, and therefore the cultures and societies of our most peripheral and marginal places and peoples. Yet, returning to those comparisons with our Nordic neighbours, often confronting even more extremes of climate, topography, soils and access, there are glimpses of what could be achieved and how the visions of better, greener and fairer futures might be delivered by and with these island communities (see footnote 3).

[i] Mike Danson and Kathryn A. Burnett (2021) Chapter 9 ‘Margins of resilience, sustainability and success: island enterprise and entrepreneurship’in Scotland and Islandness. Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture, eds. Kathryn A Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson, Oxford, New York: Peter Lang.

[ii] Just Transition Commission: A National Mission for a Fairer, Greener Scotland, Scottish Government, https://www.gov.scot/publications/transition-commission-national-mission-fairer-greener-scotland/.

[iii] Mike Danson and Peter de Souza (eds.) (2014) Regional Development in Northern Europe Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues, London: Routledge.

[iv] Mike Danson (2021) Chapter 6 Regional and Island Economies of Peripheries and Margins: ‘Nordic and Celtic’ Comparisons, in Scotland and Islandness. Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture, eds. Kathryn A Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson, Oxford, New York: Peter Lang.

[v] See Chapter 1: Introduction ‘Periphery and marginality: definitions, theories, methods and practice’ and Chapter 16: Conclusion ‘Concluding and looking at the border’ of Mike Danson and Peter de Souza (eds.) (2014) Regional Development in Northern Europe Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues.

[vi] Mike Danson (1991) The Scottish economy: the development of underdevelopment?, Planning Outlook, 34:2, 89-95, DOI: 10.1080/00320719108711898.

[vii] Mike Danson (2020) Scoping the Classic Effects of Monopolies within Patterns of Rural Land Ownership – A Discussion Paper https://www.communitylandscotland.org.uk/scoping-the-classic-effects-of-monopolies-within-patterns-of-rural-land-ownership-a-discussion-paper-2/

[viii] Mike Danson and Kathryn A. Burnett (2021) ‘Current Scottish land reform and reclaiming the commons: building community resilience’, Progress in Development Studies, 21:3, forthcoming.

[ix] Mike Danson, Janette Wyper and Geoff Whittam (2019) ‘Satellites to Sutherland-not quite coals to Newcastle!’, 17th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference – Inverness, https://inverness.impacthub.net/conference-programme.html.

[x] Mike Danson (2015) Empowered Community-Led Inclusion – Community Resilience, Report to

Strengthening Communities Directorate, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Inverness.

[xi] Kathryn A Burnett and Mike Danson (2016) ‘Sustainability and small enterprises in Scotland’s remote rural ‘margins’.’ Local Economy 31:5, 539-553. doi:10.1177/0269094216655518; Mike Danson ‘Gàidhlig, Gaeilge, Cymraeg and føroyskt mál: minority languages as economic assets?’ in Language Revitalisation and Social Transformation, eds. Huw Lewis, Wilson McLeod and Elin Royles, London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

Scotland and Islandness – new edited collection

Scotland and Islandness: Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture (2021) Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Peter Lang – Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XIV, 262 pp., 2 fig. b/w.

Studies in the History and Culture of Scotland

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places ‘apart’ yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

Available in Hardback, PDF and Ebook.


Elisabeth Holm presents paper on ‘Language learning and migration: Voices from blue-collar workplaces in the Faroe Islands’

Elisabeth Holm, University of the Faroe Islands, presented to The Role of Universities in Addressing Societal Challenges and Fostering Democracy: Inclusion, Migration, and Education for
Conference , hosted online by the University of Akureyri, Iceland March 25th – 26th, 2021. Elisabeth’s paper was entitled” ‘Language learning and migration: Voices from blue-collar workplaces in the Faroe Islands’ and was developed from her doctoral research at Heriot Watt University, Scotland.

For a publication relating to this work see here: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10993-019-09513-4.pdf

“Mikladalur, Faroe Islands” by DavideGorla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

An image above of houses on a coast. The photograph image is from the Faroe Islands. The photographer is Davide Gorla.

SCIS Research Meeting July 5th 2018

Invitation    –    All welcome.
SCIS Research Meeting
Thursday 5th July 2018    Time: 10:30 – 12:30
UWS Paisley Campus –    NB – note venue change
Room J251 Elles Building West.

There will be a meeting of the Scottish Centre for Island Studies on Thursday 5th July 2018 at UWS  Paisley Campus (Room J251). The meeting will include updates on current SCIS related projects. It will also provide an opportunity for discussion around new links and for proposed new activity.

*Apologies – we have moved the venue to Paisley UWS campus as CCA room is currently unavailable.

Please email: kathryn.burnett@uws.ac.uk if you would like to attend or for more information.Canna 2011 034

Place apart: Scotland’s north as a cultural industry of margins

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A new book chapter “Place apart: Scotland’s north as a cultural industry of margins” by Kathryn A. Burnett is published in the latest Relate North (2017) collection of essays edited by Timo  Jokela and Glen Coutts:  Relate North: University of Lapland Press present a new collection of essays.

The chapter explores themes of culture, community and communication of island arts and cultural representation enterprise with examples drawn from across Scotland’s islands and highland ‘north’ communities.

“This discussion explores artistic imagining of Scotland’s highlands and islands as a place both ‘north’ and ‘on the margin’.  Cultural representation of Scotland’s highlands and islands and processes of communicating these representations are subject to ongoing interrogation and debate. What and how remote communities, cultures and places are represented through art is undoubtedly informed by debates on survival, sustainability and responses to marginal status. The account presented here examines some of these themes from a Scottish perspective, including how art informs cultural production and creative economies in and of Scotland’s remote communities.”

To access the chapter via UWS research portal link here: http://research-portal.uws.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/place-apart(140d65a4-6e3a-4714-923f-60e5162a4cad).html

Historic Islands (Scotland) Bill introduced today to the Scottish Parliament, 12 June 2017.

Supporting, strengthening and protecting island communities.

cropped-uist-july-07-074 (2)

An historic bill has been introduced to Parliament to meet the unique needs of Scotland’s islands now and in the future. The Islands (Scotland) Bill today (12 June) will help create the right environment for sustainable growth and empowered communities.

Measures in the bill will include:

  • A requirement to ‘island proof’ future legislation and policies
  • The creation of a National Islands Plan
  • Statutory protection for the Na h-Eileanan an lar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary
  • Greater flexibility around Councillor representation within island communities
  • Extended powers to island councils in relation to marine licencing

Islands Minister Humza Yousaf said:

“This government is committed to promoting islands’ voices, to harnessing islands’ resources and enhancing their well-being. The measures in this bill underpin this ambition.

In particular, the provision to ‘island-proof’ decision-making across the public sector will ensure the interests of islanders are reflected in future legislation and policy from the very outset.

“The National Islands Plan will set out the strategic direction for supporting island communities, continuing the momentum generated by the ‘Our Islands Our Future’ campaign and the work of the Islands Strategic Group.

“This is the first ever bill for Scotland’s islands, marking an historic milestone for our island communities. I am proud and privileged as Islands Minister to be guiding the Bill through Scotland’s Parliament. ”


Source: https://www.wired-gov.net/wg/news.nsf/articles/Historic+Islands+Bill+introduced+12062017120500?open

SGSAH and “COST New speakers of minority language” doctoral students enjoy Enterprising Culture research training event, Oban, 2017

Enterprising Culture: Entrepreneurship, Endorsement and Engagement of Minority Language in Europe’s Remote Rural and Small Island Communities.

Enterprising Culture Community Stakeholder Engagement 2Earlier this year (a very cold and bracing Oban in February!)  the Scottish Centre for Island Studies ran a two day event in association with SGSAH and COST New speakers of minority lanaguge network.  The programme of the event can be seen below but it included a series of engaging talks and ‘walk abouts’ from both experienced and less experienced researchers interested in the relationships between remote and rural culture, minority language contexts and the research opportunities and complexities around enterprise and development in these terms for Scotland, and beyond.

Here is some of the feedback on the event

“Place, inter-disciplinarity , multi-linguistic, walking workshop.”

“Supportive atmosphere”

“Enthusiasm of event organisers”

“Capturing thoughts as we went along”

“Really helpful event with lots of inspiring ideas to explore for my PhD”

“Thank you for organising this- it’s been really great!”

“It was brilliant tae be in Oban, and tae haa the contact wi’ the place and talk aboot wir’ subject in context.”

“Underlined the veracity of cross-disciplinary research methodologies as a PhD approach.”

“The varied programme was really nice.”

“Having a speaker from the Isle of Man was great!”

“The location worked extremely well.”

The mix of papers was very interesting and provided different disciplinary context to the subject of minority language.”

“Visiting local agencies and hearing their perspective was very useful.”

“Thank you for putting together such a refreshing event!”

Only suggestions for improvement were that a few speakers were a bit “too quiet”, that the SAMS venue was a bit ‘far out’ from Oban but our car-share policy got everyone there and back fine J,  and we could (should) have delivered more of the actual event in Gaelic! All very helpful and we’ll certainly take these on board for future events.

Thanks to everyone for all their feedback and comments and most especially for such great participation and enthusiasm for the event.


Special thanks goes to James Harrison @Culture Vannin,  Isle of Man, to the team at the Furnan Gaelic Centre, Oban and to Norman Bissell, Scottish Centre for Geopoetics.


Enterprising Culture: Entrepreneurship, Endorsement and Engagement of Minority Language in Europe’s Remote Rural and Small Island Communities.

Dates: Tuesday 21st – Wednesday 22rd February 2017

Venue: SAMS (Scottish Marine Institute), Oban

Arts and humanities students and supervisors are invited to participate in this two day co-hosted (COST and SGSAH) inter- disciplinary event that will provide an opportunity to examine the interface between new minority language speakers, cultural entrepreneurship and research good practice in island and remote rural communities. The event seeks to build networks and share knowledge at all levels of research enquiry. With a focus on sharing examples of arts and humanities doctoral research and community policy case studies, participants will experience Scotland’s west coast community of Oban and participate in a range of ‘walking and talking’ research activity as well as key presentations, site visits and round table di scussions.


Key themes for the two day event include:

  • Sharing good practice on minority language community research engagement and brokerage with particular emphasis on doctoral experiences;
  • Inviting a better understanding of the minority language and culture issues facing communities, entrepreneurs, host communities and new minority language speakers and the research potential this offers;
  • Drawing on multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual contexts to inform discussions regarding (i) the commodification of minority language and new speakers, (ii) the role of language and cultural enterprise in local and national policy, (iii) ‘futureproofing’ minority language cultures in ‘fragile’ and remote places;
  • Realising the value of place/language as fluid/living cultural practice and enterprise with key community contributions including poet and writer Norrie Bissell, Isle of Luing, Scotland, and James Harrison representing CultureVannin, Isle of Man;
  • Developing a pivoting perspective by which both research undertaken, challenges presented and new questions yet to emerge can be brought forth and offered for review and critique by both new and experienced researchers together.

For programme of  2 day event – click here.scis-cost-sgsah-new-speakers-enterprise-island-programme

Event organisers: Dr Kathryn A. Burnett, UWS; Professor Mike Danson, Heriot-Watt University,  Professor Bernadette O’Rourke, Heriot-Watt University

For expressions of interest please contact:  Dr Kathryn A Burnett Kathryn.burnett@uws.ac.uk.

“Harvesting knowledge: gleaning experience”

Eigg Craft Beer 2016KB Compress Eigg crafts poster 2016 KB compress.jpg

Sustainability, small island food and health enterprises

“At a time of major policy challenges around food, practical challenges faced by local initiatives and personal challenges faced by many individuals and families, it is reassuring that these are being addressed through the application of the collective knowledge and experience of local communities, practitioners, planners and academics across the country.”

See a short article in FareChoice 73 on our work on small island community, food and health related enterprise: https://www.communityfoodandhealth.org.uk/publications/fare-choice-73/

This commentary is provided as “An insight into the world of research provided by the members of the Scottish Colloquium on Food and Feeding … incorporated within the British Sociological Association’s food study group http://www.britsoc.co.uk/study-groups/foodscoff-(scottish-colloquium-on-food-and-feeding).aspx

Thanks to colleagues at both the Scottish Colloquium on Food and Feeding and at scoff  (BSA) for this inclusion.

For more information on Community Food and Health (Scotland) please visit their website at: https://www.communityfoodandhealth.org.uk/about-us/

Community Food and Health (Scotland) was established, originally under the name Scottish Community Diet Project, as a result of recommendations contained in the 1996 ground breaking government strategy “Eating for Health: A Diet Action Plan for Scotland”. The task identified was the need to ‘promote and focus dietary initiatives in low-income communities and bring these within a strategic format’.

Our aim remains to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity, ability and confidence to access a healthy and acceptable diet for themselves, their families and their communities.

We pursue this aim by ensuring the experience, understanding, and learning from local communities informs policy development and delivery. Communities, planners and policy makers are encouraged and enabled to constructively engage with each other in addressing inequalities in food and health.

CFHS works with both geographical communities (eg. neighbourhoods, villages) and communities of common interest (eg. users of mental health services, travellers), the common feature being that the work is focused on those communities that suffer disadvantage and would benefit most.

CFHS runs programmes of work around information, engagement, practice development, capacity building, inclusion and impact, within an approach that has recently been referred to as an assets-based approach; in other words, where local communities are seen as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

CFHS is funded through the Scottish Government and in April 2013 became part of NHS Health Scotland, following 16 years as part of Consumer Focus Scotland, formerly the Scottish Consumer Council. NHS Health Scotland is a special Health Board with a national remit to tackle health inequalities.”



Current Scottish land reform and reclaiming the Commons: building Community Resilience

INDIGO international symposium,
January 20th 2016
KU Leuven, Leuven, Campus Arenberg

Mike Danson Heriot-Watt University and Kathryn A Burnett University of the West of Scotland


Land and community ownership and management of assets are fundamental to economies and societies throughout northern Europe, and especially to those on the periphery and margins of the continent (Danson and de Souza, 2012). In a move to reduce the contrasts with the Nordic countries, recent changes in land ownership in Scotland have created spaces within which local people can nurture and develop the collective capabilities which will help their communities to sustain and grow. Achieving such fundamental change locally necessarily has involved coming together and acting as a defined community, with governance structures recognised by the State under dedicated land reform legislation. As elsewhere, the specific type and nature of economic and social development depends on the particularities of each community buy-out but all of the cases in Scotland are based on community ownership of the commons, confirming that the ‘commons’ are critical to understanding the processes and outcomes of people taking over their most basic of assets in these remote geographies – land and property. Further, all have demonstrated enterprise, innovation, initiative and planning to realise repopulation, improved housing, employment and business growth, and regeneration of the natural flora and fauna (Burnett and Danson, 2014).


This paper offers an historical and contemporary perspective of land ownership in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as both a reason for marginality and as a constraint on development. Theoretical perspectives underpinning the analysis are introduced and applied to recognise the origins of cooperative and community activities within these communities as being grounded approaches to meeting the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (Hardin, 1968) in harsh and difficult environments. It is argued that, alongside historical legacies and social norms, the long-established particular local institutional arrangements to address the peculiar physical, social and political contexts have created the foundations for subsequent community buy-outs of privately and state owned land and property. The forms and nature of these developments are assessed within the rules and property rights literature, as articulated in particular by Ostrom (2008) and Schlager and Ostrom (1992), to analyse the processes at work which have created opportunities for collective economic development within these communities. This is followed by an outline of the fundamental changes that have been taking place in land ownership, and the developments contingent on this, in remote and difficult to access areas of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Current moves to introduce more widespread land reform legislation and community empowerment are considered, with a particular focus on where the transfer of public assets and responsibilities is involved.

The discussion addresses the challenges faced by isolated communities and community volunteers in meeting expectations of different stakeholders and local members of the community, in delivering ambitious aspirations and plans, and in sustaining energies and consensus. The paper complements the other contributions on “Ploughing up the Landed Commons”: by considering the lived experiences of small fragile communities on the periphery which are differentiated by their geography, histories and assets (broadly defined to include natural and human heritage), before concluding with suggestions for policy recommendations and ideas for further research.


Burnett, K. and Danson, M. (2014) ‘Entrepreneurship and enterprise on islands’, in Exploring Rural Enterprise: New Perspectives on Research, Policy & Practice (Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research, Volume 4) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.151 – 174, eds C Henry and G McElwee.

Danson, M. and de Souza, P. (eds.) (2012) Regional Development in Northern Europe: Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues, Abingdon: Routledge.

Danson, M., Callaghan, G. and Whittam, G. ‘Economic and enterprise development in community buy-outs’, in Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues in Northern Europe, eds M Danson and P de Souza, Abingdon: Routledge.

Hardin, G. (1968) ‘The tragedy of the Commons’, Science, 162(3859): 1243–8.

Ostrom, E. (2008) Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schlager, E. and Ostrom, E. (1992) ‘Property-rights regimes and natural resources: a conceptual analysis’, Land Economics 68(3): 249–62.

Scotland’s Islands Bill progresses.

Empowering our islands. 23th August 2016Uig Bay, Skye

Minister Humza Yousaf announced that legislation to empower Scotland’s island communities is to be progressed:

“Our islands make a significant contribution to Scottish life from both a cultural and economic perspective. As such, I am immensely proud to be able to announce that I am bringing forward an Islands Bill less than a year after my predecessor launched the Government’s consultation on potential provisions.

“We have placed the aspirations and needs of our island communities at the centre of our empowerment agenda. Drawing on the work of both the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group and the consultation findings, the Bill will provide lasting benefits for all our island communities for generations to come.

“I believe that this demonstrates our strong and continued support for our island communities and our desire to deliver quickly on the election promises set out in our manifesto. I now look forward to working with the various island communities and representatives in bringing this into effect over the next year.”

The Islands Bill follows a period of consultation and debate on Scotland’s islands futures and it is proposed that the legislation be brought forward and delivered during the next 12 months, within the first year of the new parliamentary session.

The local authorities of Shetland (Shetland Islands Council) , Orkney (Orkney Islands Council) and the Western Isles (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), along with a number of key island and ‘remote peripheral region’  related organisations,  have  variously called for greater control over local matters and raised key isses and debate on Scotland’s islands long term  social and economic future not least through the campaign, Our islands – Our Future, in the lead up to 2014’s Scottish independence referendum.

See source: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Empowering-our-islands-2945.aspx

Update:”Remote Entrepreneurs: Where nowhere is somewhere” wins ISBE ‘Best Paper: Rural Enterprise’, 2014

Remote Entrepreneurs ISBE 2014compress

Danson & Burnett ISBE best paper 2014compress


(Selected research outputs updated Spring 2017)

Our paper on remote rural entrepreneurship wins ‘best paper’ in the ISBE rural enterprise stream,  in Manchester, 2014. This work continues from last year’s success in Cardiff, 2013 which also won ‘best paper’  in the rural enterprise stream (Thank you ISBE!) and has fed into several publications and wider research agenda. Thanks to Rebecca Stirzaker, Heriot Watt University for image of us collecting our prize: Twitter @RebeStirz

Key conclusions from this paper include our focus on:

  • the complex nature of enterprise and entrepreneurship in island contexts – layered and crucially –  iportant to continue to engage with enterprise as ‘historical’;
  • an agenda for deepening the research on conflicts, trust and cooperation, strong and weak ties and networks;
  • to avoid a simple/uncritical  ‘urban-centric’ transfer of sectoral and national strategies and policies to such peripheral and marginal regions as small, remote islands;
  • research demands further exploration of behaviours and attitudes to small rural island enterprise and entrepreneurship both from within and without the local environment;
  • and  considers how concepts of the ‘other’ defines and informs wider debates and discourse;
  • Scale of impact for – and by – remote rural  context is a key factor to critique.

For further reading and research outputs relating to this work see:

Kathryn A. Burnett and Mike Danson (2017) ‘Enterprise and Entrepreneurship on Islands and Remote Rural Environments’ Special Issues on Rural Enterprise, International Journal of Entrepreneurship & Innovation Vol. 18(1), pp. 25–35 DOI: 10.1177/1465750316686237

Kathryn A. Burnett and Mike Danson. (2016) ‘Sustainability and Small Enterprises in Scotland’s Remote Rural ‘Margins’, Special Issues on Rural Enterprise, Local Economy Vol. 31, No. 5, pp. 539-553. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269094216655518

Mike Danson , , Kathryn Burnett , (2014), Enterprise and Entrepreneurship on Islands, in Colette Henry , Gerard Mcelwee (ed.) Exploring Rural Enterprise: New Perspectives on Research, Policy & Practice (Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research, Volume 4) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.151 – 174 10.1108/S2040-724620140000004007

Kathryn A. Burnett, Mike Danson, (2004) “Adding or subtracting value?: Constructions of rurality and Scottish quality food promotion”, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 10 Issue: 6, pp.384-403, doi: 10.1108/13552550410564716

Rural Enterprise SCIS Round Table

See  information below on the SCIS round table session  that was held on island and remote rural enterprise at Rural Enterprise conference at UWS Dumfries in June 2013.

Enterprise and Entrepreneurship on Islands

“Although there has been increasing interest in rural enterprises across the UK, relatively little has been written on enterprise and entrepreneurship in the specific environments of islands. Indeed, most of the rural studies and policy prescriptions have focused on lifestyle businesses in communities, which are in tourism hotspots or on locations which are relatively close to the metropolitan core of city-regions. However, island and remote geographies generate challenges which vary in strength and nature from these and more urban areas, and also from each other, so that, as well as having to deal with the usual issues facing SMEs and start-ups anywhere, enterprises on islands tend to face different, additional and exaggerated problems.” – See more  by Professor MIke Danson on this theme  at Rural Enterprise magazine Summer 13 at http://www.isbe.org.uk/Enterprise-and-Entrepreneurship-on-Islands

“Britain: The Fractured Island” by Ray Burnett

“Britain: The Fractured Island” (pp 228-245) by Ray Burnett  is included in The Political Economy of Divided Islands (2013) edited by Godfrey Baldacchino and published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of the  International Political Economy series.

“Despite the sonorous magnificence of Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt monologue, England is not an island. Rather this ‘England, that was wont to conquer others’ just thinks, acts, governs, talks, plays and presents itself as if it is. For the island polity known as ‘Britain’, more formally as ‘Great Britain (GB)’, the ‘United Kingdom (UK)’ is an odd place. In spite of its self-promotion as the ostensible product of a long, stable and immutable partnership of equals, the ‘national’ institutions of this state-nation consistently present themselves as those of a singular ‘nation-state’ through the monofocal prism of the dominant ‘island race’ of England: the English historical narrative of ‘this sceptred isle’, and a smothering blanket of English cultural referents.”

DOI: 10.1057/9781137023131_13

Full details of the edited collection to purchase are here:

Godfrey Baldacchino (ed.) (2013) The Political Economy of Divided Islands:
Unified Geographies, Multiple Polities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 256
pp., £63 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-1-137-02312-4.


 A review of the book can be found here: Carabelli, G. (2015) [Review of the book The Political Economy of Divided Islands: Unified Geographies,
Multiple Polities], Urban Island Studies, 1, 187-189.

Regional Development in Northern Europe Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues

Regional Development in Northern Europe Peripherality, Marginality and Border Issues

“This book draws on work from across northern Europe and is parallel and complementary to the network itself. By establishing an intellectual and practically orientated framework and platform, and by bringing together contributions defining the state-of-the-art and potential development paths in the field, it is the first volume to offer a systematic and scientific view from the periphery.”

This collection edited by Professor Mike Danson and Professor Peter de Souza  brings together contributions from key experts in regional development, sustainability, economics and enterprise. The content detailed below each offer insight to the ideas and practice relating to defining and articulating regional ‘margins’, ‘borders’ and ‘peripherality’ concerns in Europe today:

Part One: Overview

1. Introduction: Peripherality and Marginality Mike Danson and Peter de Souza

Part Two: Theoeretical Underpinnings

2. The Development of the Periphery in the Experience Economy Anne Lorentzen

3. Regionalism and Marginalisation Tassilo Herrschel

4. Re-thinking ‘Peripherality’ in a Knowledge-intensive Service-dominated Economy Mike Crone

5. On the conceptual development of margins and marginalisation Stephen Syrett

6. Dynamics of Peripherality Klaus Lindegaard

Part Three: Peripheries and Margins

7. Can Peripheral Regions Innovate? Sara Davies, Rona Michie and Heidi Vironen

8. Proximity and Distributed Innovations Tom Johnstad och Svein Bergum

9. Commercial Counter-urbanisation and the Rural Economy Gary Bosworth

10. Entrepreneurship in the Periphery: Geography and Resources Nikolina Fuduric

11. Transcending Orthodoxy: Multi-house Homes Tor Arnesen

12. Economic and Enterprise Development in Community Buy-outs George Callaghan, Mike Danson and Geoff Whittam

13. Survival on the Farm Tor Arnesen and Erik Mönnes at Rena

14. Gendered Spaces on Trial Gro Marit Grimsrud

15. Who has the last laugh? – further developments on the entrepreneurial politician as an unconventional problem solver Meeri Brandum Granqvist

Part Four: Borders and Conclusion 

16. Concluding comments and connections with the border theme Peter de Souza and Mike Danson




Seminar Series: Whose Economy?

Professor Mike Danson of the University of West of Scotland and Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme host a seminar series in Scotland under the theme: Whose Economy? This series was held over autumn and winter 2010 and 2011 in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Stirling.

Further details at http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get_involved/Flyer_updated_10_January_2011.pdf

“The Whose Economy? seminar series brings together experts to examine key developments that have influenced the livelihoods of
communities in Scotland and, from the perspective of vulnerable communities, explore the implications of structural changes in the Scottish economy. The focus of the series is a questioning of what economy is being created in Scotland and, specifically, for whom? Persistent poverty exists in Scotland alongside high economic prosperity, leading to gross disparities in income and wealth, and life chances and lifestyles. Poverty and inequalities have historical and structural roots: changes in the Scottish economy in recent decades have seen a shift from manufacturing to a service-led, supposedly ‘knowledge economy’. Glasgow, for example, was once the second city of the British Empire – now it is Britain’s second biggest shopping destination. The economy that is being pursued is not only one-dimensional (in its apparent obsession with retailed growth), but ultimately premised on an inherent contradiction. Trust, relationships and reciprocity are undermined by hyper-consumerism, status-driven consumption and individual instant gratification through material acquisition, themselves driven by inequalities. Individuals are implicitly expected to function as just-in-time inventory – on demand when the needs of businesses require, but disposable when deemed superfluous to production or service demands.

Speakers will discuss the relevant actors and how the interaction of the pursuit of economic growth and other policy trends (such as welfare reform) has impacted on communities across Scotland.”