LET’s look beyond oil and manufacturing: Scotland’s greatest economic asset is its people.

By the time this article goes to print few, if any, of the results of this year’s local council elections will be known. If polling is to be believed, the SNP will make gains across Scotland, including taking control of my home city of Glasgow. And one of the key manifesto pledges made by the party is to devolve one million pounds to each and every ward in the city. Consistent with a commitment the SNP has made across Scotland to devolve power to local communities.

At public town hall meetings across the city, local people will decide how to invest this cash to the benefit of their communities. This citizen-led budgeting is a worldwide phenomenon. Its impact on the morale of local communities is well-documented, but we should not overlook the economic benefits it can bring.

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A new report from Common Weal has identified 40 derelict sites or buildings in the East End of Glasgow – the area I represent. Most are owned by the council. Many have lain unused for years, or even decades. Eyesores to the local community, as well as a tremendous missed opportunity.

These derelict sites need development. Putting them to good use as part of a citizen-led approach to rebuilding local economies could deliver significant economic, as well as social, benefits locally and across the country.

For too long, economic development in Scotland’s cities has been about top-down decision making. This a strategy that has often failed to realise the potential for high living standards and stable local employment for our most deprived communities. It’s time to stop looking at areas like the East End of Glasgow as problems to be solved. Instead they should be seen as assets to be developed and nurtured.

In the year since I was elected to serve the people of Provan, my belief that the greatest asset of this area is its people has been reinforced.

There’s an abundance of passion and talent, as well as the ideas, enthusiasm and energy to improve communities for the better. Last year, the Scottish Government passed the Community Empowerment Act. This ground-breaking (in more ways than one) piece of legislation gives urban communities the right to buy disused or derelict land, with funding available from the Scottish Land Fund.

This is a radical new approach. Our elected representatives – existing and new – need to work together to encourage grassroots leadership in these projects. Enabling and empowering citizens to forge their own paths for their communities. And be there to support them where they need it. Far more economic development opportunities should be citizen-led, and be facilitated by local and national governments. Our newly elected councillors will play no small part in this.

Independence will give us the levers to make better economic decisions at Holyrood, but self-determination starts at a grassroots level, in the streets and communities of Scotland.