From Scottish Community Alliance:
Four years ago, Scottish Government and COSLA launched a document called the Community Empowerment Action Plan. While nothing particularly significant in terms of action ever ensued, the Plan served an important purpose nonetheless - mainly because it was the first Government strategy to put community empowerment officially on the policy map. Since then that map has been transformed, in part by the impact of economic crisis on public spending and in part by the Christie Commission’s proposals to reform public services. Never before has the community sector been so much under the glare of the policy spotlight.
This morning, Local Government and Regeneration Minister Derek Mackay MSP launched the Scottish Government’s much vaunted Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill. While it’s unlikely that the Bill will ever match the pre-launch hype of being the greatest transfer of power since devolution itself, this is nonetheless an important landmark moment. From a sketchy strategy to full blown legislation in four years is good progress – here's hoping this Bill can deliver something of real substance.
|Community Buy-Out on Eigg (photo Murdo MacLeod)|
- Plans for greater local decision making.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is designed to strengthen and nurture community participation and encourage enterprising community development.
Communities will be able to identify and ask for any public sector land or buildings that they feel they could make better use of than its current owner.
The decision whether to transfer that asset will be based on which proposed use would provide the greatest benefit to the community.
Legislation will be updated and simplified to support local authorities’ provision and management of allotments.Local authorities will have a duty to provide allotments linked to and triggered by actual demand and to protect permanent allotment sites from closure.
There will be new duties to strengthen Community Planning, so that public sector agencies work as one to deliver better outcomes for communities.Views will also be invited on how communities might benefit from legislation to improve the national and local focus on improving outcomes, currently implemented through Scotland Performs.
The Bill also proposes:
• Streamlining and extending the existing community right to buy to cover urban and rural communities as part of our ambition to have 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020.
• Providing new powers to help councils deal with defective and dangerous buildings, and to provide local relief schemes on business rates.
• Increasing transparency about the management and use of Common Good assets.
Launching the Bill consultation at Castlemilk Stables in Glasgow, Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay said:
“The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is about people and communities taking their own decisions about their future.This will build on the support of the Scottish Government, set out by the First Minister in the Lerwick Declaration, for subsidiarity and local decision making. The Bill will help community groups to take over public land and buildings where they think they can make better use of them than their current public sector owners. This Bill will also reform the community right to buy, giving urban communities in Scotland same rights as rural communities, where it is in the public interest."
COSLA President, Cllr David O’Neill, today welcomed the consultation saying:
"We are delighted to see the Scottish Government being explicit in its commitment to local democracy. To this end, COSLA will be arguing that the European Charter for Local Self-Government, mentioned in the consultation, should be enacted as part of the Bill, thus guaranteeing the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities."
The Carnegie UK Trust said:
"We support the proposal to place a duty on Scottish Ministers to develop, consult on and publish the outcomes they seek for the people of Scotland. Scotland is already recognised as an international leader on measuring wellbeing through its use of Scotland Performs.The proposals would put this approach on the statute books, enabling and requiring future governments to also set out their own vision for improving the wellbeing of the people of Scotland, and ensuring that we can hold them to account for progress towards better outcomes.”