THE EMERGENCE of this Handbook is a welcome indication of a resurgence of Community spirit in Maybole. The churches, schools, youth groups, clubs and associations all still flourish, as can be seen from the articles elsewhere, but the most important element is the feeling of total community cutting across barriers and uniting folk for the common good of a town or village.
The old Town Council was a symbol and a practical expression of that uniting force and at another level Ayrshire County represented a wider expression of a common feeling and spirit. I suppose it was inevitable with the increasingly complex nature of our society, with the need for specialist facilities in education and social work, for strategic planning on a larger scale and for more "efficiency" that there had to be change in local government.
However, there have been unfortunate results also. It is true that the new Regions and Districts have never had a proper chance to prove themselves because the economic climate has been poor ever since they were set up and they have had to economise and cut back rather than improve and expand services. However, it is also arguable that their whole basis is questionable in terms of community feeling and identity in this part of Scotland.
It is also true that many people, particularly young people, are beginning to reject some of the materialism of our society, the search for "efficiency" above all, the wasteful unfettered use of energy, bringing with it unknown dangers of generation, and most significant perhaps are rejecting traditional theology and politics.
Instead a reversion to the simple and uncomplicated way of life gives many young people greater pleasure, they wish to conserve our energy resources to stop storing up dangers for future generations and are often turning to mysticism and joy in religion and pressure group politics rather than the strictness and joylessness of Scottish religious traditions and the tram-lines of our political systems.
As yet the machinery of our society has not come to terms with any of this. Our rules and regulations are too complicated, built up over generations. We expect people to conform to a pattern, to eat certain kinds of things at set times, to react in predictable ways; to work at agreed times, to accept structures of authority, precedence and protocol because it has always been done that way. If anyone deviates from the expected pattern he may attract disapproval, cause disruption or, sometimes, when he breaks the law, he gets into trouble.
It is my job to try and help make laws, which reflect or even anticipate changes in attitudes. Why should young people not drink alcohol until they are 18 or wait until 16 before they can legally have sexual relations? Why should there be compulsory schooling until the age of 16 and what is sacrosanct about a five-day working week or an 8-hour day? The answer, of course, is nothing. It is just that either the law decrees it or traditionally, by agreement or by direction, this is so. But the law is there to be changed and agreements to be reviewed and altered.
To suggest change is often described as being political and often this is put in the form of an accusation. In the correct sense it is political but it is also equally political to advocate no change, the status quo, the "accepted norms."
Now many of our institutions are showing cracks and our way of life is creaking with its burdensome load of rules, regulations and traditions. The setting up of a new enterprise is bedevilled with red tape. Automation, mechanisation and now the silicon chip are revolutionising industry and making it possible for us to produce the required wealth for the nation with a fraction of the work force. Rural communities are under seige with shop closures, railway closures, bus routes axed and now petrol both expensive and increasingly difficult to attain. These are just a few of many major factors which should radically alter our approach.
Yet we are just tinkering with existing structures and methods of operation. We need not to adjust the wavelength of our thinking but to change to an entirely different channel.
We now need to begin to accept that we are moving towards leisure time unheard of before with a working week of four, three or even two days and many exploit our own organic energy sources to the full and to develop new alternative forms of energy from the sun the wind and the waves.
Above all we need to move towards much greater public investment and control over means of production of major resources and of investment in public transport of a revolutionary kind. It is crazy that billions of pounds are spent in space probes while the great ingenuity of man results in empty 40-seater Leyland buses careering around country lanes looking for passengers who have no incentive to use them at their inflated fare levels.
We need to tackle these and many other problems facing us, in a totally different way and we need to change the institutions to enable us to tackle them. Parliament itself is geared towards accepting the status quo and needs to be changed. More power of scrutiny needs to be given to the individual MPís to question Ministers, civil servants and the whole Executive through stronger select committees and efficient servicing of individual Members, where the American system shows us some examples we could follow.
Then Local Government needs to be changed ó not another reorganisation like that of 1975 but a streamlining of its technical operations coupled with much greater opportunities for public debate on the major issues decided by the councils which affect all our lives. It is also up to us to stir them up, to ensure lively elections and to constantly ask what they are doing on our behalf with our money. But even then we will not be answering all the needs increasingly finding expression through other sources and leading to alienation, particularly among young people. I am not offering any instant solution on how we can do this but what we do need is an openness of mind to enable us to be receptive to totally new ideas, however radical and seemingly hair-brained.í
Which brings me back to where I started. Within a town like Maybole there is a need for a united forum to ascertain, consider, improve and express the views of the community as a whole to the decision makers. Fortunately the reform of local government gave us that in setting up the Community Council. Many people understandably hanker after the old Town Council and see the Community Council as a pale reflection of that. Certainly in formal terms it has no statutory local government powers but therein is its strength.
Community Councils in all parts of Scotland have nowhere yet approached their real potential. They should break through the old barriers, be open to new ideas and press every authority on issues affecting the people they represent. They must forget about the past glories and look to the future in a campaigning and challenging way and they may suddenly discover that they can affect change and improvement easier than in the days of the old Town Council.
This book indicates a resurgence of corporate community identity which I fully support and you can count on my increasing support for the people of Maybole over coming years, particularly in any radical ideas and proposals.