A new law will make it easier for communities in Scotland to take over land or buildings that are currently in public ownership.
The asset transfer section of the Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015 has come into force on 23 January. This allows community-led organisations to request to buy, lease or use any land or buildings belonging to local councils, Scottish Ministers, and a range of other public bodies. They must show how they will use the land to benefit the community. Requests must be agreed unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal.
This is the latest section of the Act which gives more power to Scotland’s communities to have their voices heard in decisions that matter to them, and to take action for themselves.
Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart was visiting West Dunbartonshire on 23 January to host a range of community empowerment meetings including a visit to Men’s Shed Clydebank. Based in a former Scout hut in the grounds of Dalmuir Community Centre, members of the Shed are using their skills to renovate the building and make it more suitable for their use. The group are interested in using asset transfer to secure the use of the building in the longer term.
Mr Stewart said:
“This government is determined to give communities more power to decide their own futures based on local need. Having control of land and buildings makes a big difference in enabling community organisations to achieve the changes they want, and I would like to see more groups have this opportunity.
“Every area has a building or land that could be of much more benefit to the local community if it was the local people themselves who were given the support and the freedom to make a difference.
“Taking over land or buildings can give communities the opportunity to deliver services. It can also provide jobs, skills and training, and opportunities to generate income and helps groups to become more sustainable, building confidence and a sense of community.
“There are many examples around the country where asset transfer has taken place and real benefits are being delivered by community organisations. But there is still work needed to be done to ensure communities are given every opportunity in getting the land or building they need to achieve their vision.”
Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, and associated secondary legislation, comes into force on 23 January 2017. Asset transfer requests can be made from 23 January.
Guidance has been published for both relevant authorities and community transfer bodies, along with a summary guide in simple language.
Links to all documents and legislation are available at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/engage/AssetTransfer