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Catch up on the latest happenings across Scotland's inspiring development trust network, from impact stories to upcoming events near you.


The Impact of Development Trusts in Scotland: Strengthening Communities

Posted on: Monday 13th May, 2024
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Introduction to Development Trusts in Scotland

Development Trusts are dynamic, community-led organisations dedicated to sustainable local development. Operating across the length and breadth of Scotland, from island communities to City Centres, engaging in various projects and action to enhance their communities' social, economic, and environmental wellbeing. Rooted in local needs and aspirations, Development Trusts work on the principle that community-led initiatives are most effective in generating long-term, positive changes for their local community.  They are place-based, enterprising and governed by local people.

Achievements of Development Trusts

Over the years, Development Trusts in Scotland have achieved remarkable success in various sectors. These include the regeneration of local areas, the development and ownership of community assets, and the creation of enterprises that support the local economy and create jobs. For example, many trusts have successfully renovated historical buildings, turning them into community hubs that offer essential services and spaces for social activities. Many are involved in housing, tourism, community shops and town centre development. Additionally, some trusts manage local natural resources, promoting environmental conservation and education or operate healthy living centres, promoting health & wellbeing.  Some also own wind or hydro renewable energy schemes and woodlands.

Development Trusts are pivotal in revitalising local economies and creating community infrastructures that meet the needs and demands of local people. They are services that are shaped and owned by the local people that live there meaning they are inclusive, diverse, agile and creative.   Delivering childcare, active travel schemes, elderly services, youth work, arts and culture, training and many other social activities that deliver positive outcomes in a local area.   

Development Trusts help to retain wealth at a local level whilst overcoming challenges and issues for individuals and the community as a whole.   Taking action on priorities that matter to them. 

Integration with Broader Community Work

Development Trusts are integral to broader community work in Scotland. They collaborate with local councils, private sector partners, and other non-profit organisations to align their projects with broader community plans and initiatives. This collaborative approach ensures the trusts' projects are well-integrated with local and regional development strategies. Whilst working towards the Scottish Government's purpose of creating a more prosperous country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The trusts also play a crucial role in advocating for community interests, ensuring local voices are heard in policy-making processes. This has led to more community-focused planning and the implementation of policies that directly address the needs and challenges faced by local populations.

Our Support to Development Trusts

Development Trust Association Scotland (DTA Scotland) is an organisation that supports and represents Development Trusts across Scotland.  To join the membership and our network, organisations complete an application process which ensures that the ethos and core principles are met.  Our membership provides a network of community anchors, community-led organisations, and a place to share knowledge and experiences.  DTA Scotland provides support through a dedicated team of development officers that enhance and guide organisations on their path, by giving advice and promoting best practices and innovative solutions to common challenges.
DTA Scotland also offers training and resources to its members, helping them build capacity and to achieve their goals. This includes legal, financial management, project planning, and guidance in sector specific delivery areas. By equipping trusts with these tools, DTA Scotland ensures they are well-prepared to manage their projects efficiently and effectively.

Furthermore, DTA Scotland advocates for policies and legislation that supportcommunity-led development. By engaging with policymakers and stakeholders at various levels, DTA Scotland plays a crucial role in shaping an enabling environment for our members to operate successfully. This advocacy is essential in ensuring that government policies continue to support and empower local communities through the work of Development Trusts.


Development Trusts in Scotland are at the forefront of transforming local communities into thriving places where people want to live, work and socialise. Our members have significantly impacted on the economic, social, environmental and cultural fabric of Scotland through their dedicated efforts. With the support of DTA Scotland, these organisations are not just responding to community needs but actively shaping a resilient and sustainable future for all.

As Scotland continues to evolve, the role of Development Trusts will undoubtedly expand, playing an even more critical role in the nation's sustainable development. Their continued success is a testament to the power of community-led initiatives and the importance of collaborative effort in achieving long-term community benefits.

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Wednesday 01st May, 2024

Blog: Burnout in the Sector DTAS Debate

Julia Carreiro Rolim - Research and Insights Team



In the landscape of development trusts and the wider third sector, the issue of burnout among dedicated staff is a familiar and pressing concern.The most recent DTAS Debates session provided a platform for DTAS members working in development trusts, whether as paid employees, board members or volunteers, to discuss their experiences around burnout. 

Presentations by panellists covered diverse perspectives on the issue ranging from the definition, warning signs, and symptoms of burnout, practical strategies to address burnout, the impact of digital tools and remote working, and personal accounts of burnout. A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the widespread impact of burnout among development trust staff and the effects on their physical, emotional, and professional well-being. 

Development trusts are often the last resort for the provision of essential services in their communities and find themselves grappling with expanding responsibilities without the requisite resources. From managing community centres to spearheading heritage projects, and constructing affordable housing, individuals within DTs juggle a multitude of roles and responsibilities which had, for many, lead to feelings of being stretched thin and overwhelmed. 

The relationship between staff and volunteer trustees also emerged as a significant aspect influencing organisational culture and staff well-being. While trustees play a crucial role in guiding the strategic direction of trusts, there's often a disconnect between their understanding of frontline realities and the day-to-day challenges faced by staff. Facilitating conversations between staff and trustees about wellbeing is essential to preventing burnout and instituting positive workplace wellbeing measures. 

Practical strategies for managing burnout also gained considerable interest from participants and panellists alike. Strategies shared included: 

  • Implementing clear boundaries around work hours, email/digital communications, and time off.
  • Blocking time before and after meetings, especially online meetings, to avoid constant context-switching. 
  • Creating visual systems to better prioritise and communicate workload 
  • Seeking out external support and perspective, whether through wellbeing services or peer networks 
  • Cultivating self-compassion and remembering that the root causes of burnout lie in systemic issues, not individual failings 

As the session ended, one message resonated deeply – addressing burnout necessitates a collective effort and a culture of support to prioritise staff well-being and foster open dialogue.

In the wake of this important discussion, we would like to announce the launch of a new free service for DTAS members: the Workplace Wellbeing Support Service. This service will provide:

  • Face to face or online 1:1 support from our Wellbeing & Inclusion Coordinator
  • Tailored resources based on workplace wellbeing
  • Relevant training and webinars
  • Staff engagement sessions
  • Practical tips on how to look after your workforce

Find out more about the wellbeing support service. If you are a full or provisional DTAS member you can make a referral here or by contacting

A Fair Energy Deal for Scottish Communities

Posted on: Wednesday 10th April, 2024

DTA Scotand is pleased to share our Call to Action to the Scottish Government for a Fair Energy Deal for Communities.

This paper is the result of close partnership working between Development Trust Association Scotland, Community Energy Scotland, Community Land Scotland, Scottish Community Alliance and Scottish Communities Finance.

Our Call to Action includes seven actions which the Scottish Government can take to start addressing the growing inequity between communities and the energy system.

Communities are ambitious when it comes to decarbonisation, and we have numerous examples of Development Trusts and other placed-based organisations working towards a truly just transition to net zero.

However, it often feels as if the energy system is working against community climate ambitions and we believe the wider community energy agenda needs urgently reviewed. This paper outlines the urgent action we believe is needed and aims to put the interests of communities to the fore.

We ask the Scottish Government and partners in parliament, local authorities, community groups, and other stakeholders to work together and bring forward these actions to sustain our communities in the next energy revolution.

PDF icon Fair Energy Deal Full Paper.pdf

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Thursday 04th April, 2024
A collage of photographs showing people of different ages in rooms having discussions and writing on flip charts. Includes a picture of some sandwiches to help keep the conversations going.

DTAS Policy: Reflecting back on the Democracy Matters 2 consultation

Local democracy, and the idea of devolving power closer to communities, has been talked about for many years.  Much has been written reflecting on the centralisation of Scottish politics, contrary to the original intentions of devolution at the end of the last century. Scotland (and the UK) has found itself as an outlier amongst other European nations in how distant people are from the people who make decisions about their communities and places, and it’s in this landscape that development trusts have often tried to fill the gap.  They are democratic, community led and owned organisations, advocating for and delivering on the projects people in communities want to see happen, filling the gaps when the system fails in some way, and trying to give people voice and agency in their community. Other countries, with more developed systems of local democracy have less need of these kinds of third sector organisations so the strength of our own community sector is, to some extent, a response to the absence of the state at the community level. Whilst politics debates how much the state should have a role, and how it should be funded, development trusts just try and get on with doing what needs done, often driven by volunteers, with very little funding.

This phase of the Democracy Matters process tried to tease out what local democracy in Scotland might look like. This was a big ask and an exercise for the imagination to think about how it could work in “our” place. DTAS hosted a series of in-depth conversations on this in Carluke, Mull, Duns, Udny and Easterhouse, as part of an SG funded partnership with SCDC, to help communities in each place tackle some of the issues, and feed their thoughts into the consultation response. These conversations have been helpful in shaping our own thinking and are reflected in our response published here

Pamela Barnes, who hosted each of these conversations said:
the conversations were really rich, and while there were themes in common, there were often differences in how people wanted to see this happen in their community. Communities were energised by the idea of having more say, but wary of more responsibility without more resource or capacity.

The ball is back in the court of the Scottish Government now, to consider what comes next. Whatever the proposals are for democracy at the most local levels, they must be part of wider political system change to ensure that democracy becomes more participative at all levels, to tackle the disempowerment and disillusionment we came across in so many of our conversations. With last year’s consultation on a potential Community Wealth Building bill highlighting the need for more local economic democracy, we must also look at how changes in local democracy link with economic development, as well as issues such as land reform, climate emergency response and regeneration. We need whole system change!

Our CEO, Pauline Smith said:

local democracy is what our movement is built on, and we want to keep the momentum going after this consultation. Our members are in touch with what their communities want and want to be part of shaping new models of local decision making. The disillusionment with the way things are just now is quite stark and means we must keep pressing the Scottish Government for change and working with them to help achieve that.


DTAS Debates - Community Benefit Funds

Posted on: Thursday 29th February, 2024

DTAS Debates: Community Benefit Funds

Felix Richardson - DTA Scotland Research and Insights Intern

On the 7th of February, the second DTAS Debates session was held for our members. For this event, the topic of the debate was on the community benefit funds (CBF) landscape from renewable energy developers. With approximately £25 million coming into communities across Scotland last year through these arrangements, the debate explored varied experiences of development trusts have had in setting up funds and receiving monies. The guiding question of the debate was: What could an equal, consistent and transparent Community Benefit Fund landscape look like?

The debate welcomed three different speakers: Stephen McCarron from the 9CC Group, Rachel Searle from Foundation Scotland and Karen Edwards from DTAS member Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company. Each panellist gave an overview of their organisation with the strengths and challenges relating to community benefit funds. The event was chaired by Morven Lyon, head of Democratic Finance.

The importance of partnership with the stakeholders involved in the CBF process was emphasised throughout the evening. Whilst the Stephen and Karen shared what their organisations have been able to achieve through strong relations with developers and innovative models, the debate allowed members to share a variety of different experiences. Once the discussion was opened to the members, some shared their cohesive work with local stakeholders in managing their CBF, other DTAS members spoke of their challenges of cooperation and conflict with local authorities and community councils to create effective CBF arrangements. 

The debate illustrated the complexities and barriers in the current landscape of community benefit funds. In particular, the inequality of communities receiving community benefits was raised with some development trusts earning more than £500,000 per annum whilst others across the country aren’t seeing a penny. 

Other topics included:

  • Community engagement in decision-making processes for fund distribution.
  • Mandatory Community Benefit Fund arrangements
  • DTAS’ role in supporting members with CBF.

With DTAS’ Research and Insights Team and Democratic Finance Team currently conducting research into the community benefit fund landscape, the debate shed light on the complicated landscape of Community Benefit Funds and the need for more support for development trusts in this area.

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Friday 05th January, 2024

DTAS Debates Launch: Local Democracy           

Julia Rolim - DTAS Research and Insights Intern

The end of November marked the launch of our new members-only event series, DTAS Debates. This new event series aims to be a space where DTAS members can come together to discuss the issues affecting development trusts and share grassroots practices developed in response to those issues.

Pauline Smith, DTAS CEO, says:

“I’m delighted that we’re launching DTAS Debates, providing valuable opportunities for dialogue with our members and wider community-led organisations. Together, as a member-led network, I want DTAS Debates to delve into the big topics that are impacting the future of development trusts, and our communities across Scotland. This is a chance to think big, debate issues, voice concerns, share ideas, and ultimately shape the future vision for communities in Scotland, and influence developments within the shifting policy landscape of Scotland.”

The first event took local democracy as its core topic for discussion, including the relevance of the Scottish Government's Democracy Matters 2 policy agenda to development trusts. Our guiding question was: 'What does locally relevant decision-making look like?'. In addition to providing an open space for discussion, this session sought to gather members' views and experiences with Democracy Matters 2 to inform the DTAS consultation response and position on the issue. Despite only lasting 1 hour and a half, the event yielded extensive information, opinions, challenges, and good practice examples.  

Our four panellists were Tom Sneddon (Carluke DT), Anna Bliss-Davis (Stronsay DT), Scott Mackay (Midsteeple Quarter), and Willie Sullivan (Electoral Reform Society Scotland). They briefly overviewed their experiences, challenges, and innovative approaches to local democracy in their communities. Then, the floor opened for participants to ask questions, raise issues, and discuss actions in their communities.  

Members highlighted common barriers faced when practising local democracy in their communities, with many explicitly citing an uncollaborative relationship between development trusts and local authorities and the perception of development trusts as 'risky' organisations. Funding, especially core funding, was another critical issue discussed, with members stating that DM2 must come with adequate resources, funding, and a statutory basis to empower communities and the challenges that can come with devolved funding. Other core topics covered included:

  • Digital democracy.
  • Improving consultation processes.
  • Involving young people.
  • Ensuring development trusts represent their communities.
  • Alternative models for local democracy.
  • Engaging with community councils and other community bodies. 

The next DTAS Debates event will be on the hotly debated issue of Community Benefit Funding from renewable energy installations. CLICK HERE to register and keep an eye out for subsequent announcements!

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Our Partner DTA Scotland Services

The Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) is funded by the Scottish Government to support community based groups in Scotland take a stake in or ownership of previously publicly owned land or buildings.

Community Shares Scotland is a national organisation that exists to raise awareness of the community shares model and support communities who wish to raise money this way.

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