I'm very sad to hear that Phil Welsh -- a leader of the pioneering West Whitlawburn Housing Coop died last week (pictured right with Muriel Alcorn). I interviewed both feisty campaigners last year for a new book about Scotland called Blossom. Ironically it finally went to the typesetters today and I was just looking for this picture when I got the bad news. The book asks how Scotland can flourish. It struck me that folk like Phil knew the answer – taking control of your own lives locally. And by local I mean "community local" not "massive council local." Phil was a man with a great turn of phrase and sense of humour.
When I asked him how it felt to lead the buyout of 500-odd council flats in one of Scotland's most deprived neighbourhoods, he remembered clearly the absurd situation; "The first cheque I ever signed in my life was for £2.2 million. Weird, cos I only had ten pence in my pocket at the time." Phil wasn't joking, nor was he an MBE when West Whitlawburn's big moment arrived in 1988 and his wife Sadie put Phil's name forward for a new steering committee to take West Whitlawburn out of council control and run the estate themselves. The rest became history.