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The eyes of the world are on Scotland this week. The referendum on Scottish independence looks like it will produce a close result. It’s been a long campaign, which the rest of the United Kingdom has largely ignored until the last couple of weeks when suddenly the gap between “yes” and “no” in the opinion polls has narrowed. 

 
 
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It’s been a busy summer. In particular I have been involved in work on “measuring success” for Scotland’s Historic Environment Strategy. As Chair of the Built Environment Forum Scotland I am chairing a “workstream” on this topic, with a brief to report to the Scottish Government and to the historic environment sector by the end of August.

 
 
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In the next few weeks some important decisions will be taken. The UN is coming to the end of a process that will result in the General  Assembly adopting a set of Sustainable Development Goals for the period 2015-2030.  These were focus on eradication of poverty and are sure to commit the governments of the world to action on topics such as health, water and education – rightly so. 

 
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In the early 1990s Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, triggering a series of vicious wars as ethnic groups contested territories. I have been doing some work looking at current development in the countries of the Western Balkans. Although conditions have certainly improved over the past decade, and the World Bank now rates them as “upper middle income countries”, it is clear that long-lasting economic and environmental damage has occurred. 

 
 
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For over 30 years EU programmes have supported students so that they can spend some time studying at a university in a different member state. Now a new ERASMUS+ programme opens such mobility opportunities to many others. The kind of youth camps that IC has delivered over several years would seem to be eligible for support. The programme includes Norway.

 
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The nature of museums has been changing dramatically. Until the 1970s they were pretty much a place run by experts for experts. They housed collections of artefacts that needed to be preserved – hands off! Cliff Hague

 
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Recently Professor Cliff Hague from Scotland went to a meeting of a project looking at small and medium-sized towns across Europe,where he spoke in a small town about branding the town. For ICN he reviews his visit and shares his thoughts with us.

 
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Probably the outstanding example of small town regeneration in Scotland is West Kilbride. It is a coastal town about 45 kilometers from Glasgow. It has a population of just under 5,000 inhabitants. Although it has quite an affluent population, decline had set in by the mid-1990s, when about half of the retail properties on the town’s main street were empty and boarded up. 

 
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Local food networks are attracting increasing attention. This week I picked up Issue 1 of Nourish Scotland Magazine, which is produced by Scotland’s sustainable food network. Pete Richie, Director of Nourish Scotland, sums up the organisation’s basic vision. It is to “reimagine farming as a service: and a service which is increasingly co-produced by farmers and citizens.”

 
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Small towns are home to many Scots; they are places that contribute significantly to Scotland’s economy, identity and national well-being. They are of cultural importance: their buildings, streets and parks tell Scotland’s story.

 
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How do you evaluate a landscape? It is a question that lies at the heart of decision-making on controversial developments in the countryside, such as wind farms or new highways. Since the 1970s landscape evaluation has become a very technocratic process, much to the frustration of many non-professionals who may care deeply about a place but feel their views count for little.

 
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Town centres are dying. The economic crisis has highlighted the malaise. There are empty shops, as people head to the edge of town supermarket. Internet shopping replaces the trip to the store downtown. Prominent buildings once used for public functions such as town halls, post offices or churches stand empty too, as services have been rationalised or public attitudes have changed.

 
 
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Water. Can’t live without it. From different places across the world comes news of growing crises in access to this most basic resource.

 
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The news that the Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has bought six islands in the Ionian Sea for 8.5m Euro is a further indication of changing relations between Europe and its neighbourhood. The EU - and those of us who live in it - still see Europe as the centre of the world. After all that’s what our maps show us and how our daily news bulletins are packaged. This world view is built on a long history during which time - for good and for ill - this small continent really did lead the world.

 
 
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“The planning system has a significant role in supporting sustainable economic growth in rural areas.” This statement is from the Scottish Government’s Planning Policy. However, planning decisions in rural Scotland can often be very controversial, as Cliff Hague explains in his new blog post.

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How can we make the places safer and more secure? I was prompted to ask this by the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in India that was given so much coverage in the news internationally. I did a bit of research on what women’s groups have been doing in India to focus the attention of planners, designers and police on the issues of sexual harassment and assault.