An assessment of local isotropy and universality in high-Reynolds-number turbulent flows is presented. The emphasis is on the behaviour of passive scalar fields advected by turbulence, but a brief review of the relevant facts is given for the turbulent motion itself. Experiments suggest that local isotropy is not a natural concept for scalars in shear flows, except, perhaps, at such extreme Reynolds numbers that are of no practical relevance on Earth. Yet some type of scaling exists even at moderate Reynolds numbers. The relation between these two observations is a theme of this paper.