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More government gobbledygook

There have recently been plenty of calls for government and council documents to be rewritten in plain English – and talks over the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Bill have led to yet another.

The discussions have been spoiled for anyone other than those at the very top – it’s hard to imagine anyone else having a clue what ‘top-down capacity building’, ‘community anchor organisations’ or ‘third sector interfaces’ are.

Shouldn’t a ‘community empowerment bill’, designed to help people get involved with and improve their communities, be all about clarity and plain English?

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan conceded as much, saying, "We shouldn't be using fancy words for these things, because it does disadvantage people."

Councillor David O'Neill, President of council umbrella group Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), admitted, "We do use language which excludes people from the discussion,” with North Lanarkshire Councillor Harry McGuigan, Cosla Community Well-being and Safety Spokesman, also suggesting that, although ‘experts’ had been consulted, “We hadn't consulted with the real experts – the people living in that community experiencing what life is actually like in that community."

Kevin Stewart, Convener of Holyrood’s Local Government Committee, suggests that, “These kind of things, and the kind of discussion that we are having here, often puts folk off from becoming involved in their communities, because they come, they listen to us sometimes and think, 'What the hell is that all about?'”

Indeed. Discussions about community empowerment, delivered in the kind of gobbledygook that only a handful of people, none from the community in question, can understand, can only exclude people, surely?

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