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July 1, 2009

Land Reform – where to next?

Ten years ago this month, the government’s Land Reform Policy Group published “Land Reform – Proposals for Legislation”. Ten years on from that, and five  years after the Land Reform (Scotland) Act was passed, there seems to be a growing appetite not only to take stock of progress to date but to inject new energy and direction into this agenda. A number of LPL supporters came together recently to consider ways of taking this forward. They’ll be meeting again after the summer. Here’s a summary of who attended and what was said

Outcome of LPL meeting held June 16th  to consider issues affecting progress around land reform/community assets agenda and proposals for how to proceed
Present :
Andy Milne                      Scottish Urban Regeneration Network
Andy Wightman               Writer and researcher
Angus Hardie                  Local People Leading
Alistair McIntosh              GalGael,  Centre for Human Ecology
David Niven                     Individual (formerly Initiatives at the Edge)
Frazer Scott                     Forward Scotland
Geri Smyth                      Transition Scotland Support
Helen Pank                      Federation of City farms and Community Gardens
Ian Cooke                       Development Trusts Association Scotland
Jon Hollingdale                Community Woodlands Association
Natalie McCall                  Transition Arran / Glasgow Caledonian University
Norman MacAskill              SCVO
Mark Lazzeri                     Assynt Foundation
Tom Black                        Development Trusts Association Scotland
Tom Graham                    Crofters Association, Tenant farmer
Wendy Reid                      Development Trusts Association Scotland
Other LPL supporters who noted their active interest:
Chris Mitchell                    Kinghorn Community Land Initiative
Cllr Bryan Stuart                Aberdeenshire Council
James Hilder                     Mull and Iona Community Trust
Judy Wilkinson                  Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society
Neil Gerrard                       Community Land Unit
Pauline Gallagher              Neilston Development Trust
Patricia Robertson             Assynt Foundation
Robin Callander                Independent specialist adviser
Main concerns  expressed at meeting
·         Government enthusiasm for land reform has cooled
·         Land Reform  (Scotland) Act 2003 is not delivering expected outcomes
·         Previous commitment from Scottish Executive/ Scottish Government to  review the operation and  effectiveness of Land Reform Act has not been fulfilled
·         Levels of investment in a comprehensive programme of community asset acquisition and development have stalled
·         Standard of community capacity building per CLD is inadequate to meet the demands placed on community bodies in the pre and post acquisition of assets.
·         Transfers of local authority assets into community ownership are ad hoc and lack a national strategic focus viz a viz that provided by the Quirk Review in England
·         Common Good assets remain poorly documented with persistent financial irregularities and little opportunity for meaningful community oversight.
·         A commitment from Scottish Government to produce guidance for local authorities on the disposal of public assets at less than best consideration has not been fulfilled.
·         Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Action Plan is not currently a cross government policy priority and consequently the community asset agenda sits outwith mainstream policy thinking
What action is required:

Proposed that a campaign of coordinated action should be pursued under the auspices of Local People Leading which should include the following key areas:
·         Community Right to Buy.   Registration and re-registration procedures should be simplified.  Scope of the Act should be extended to cover all land in Scotland.   Significant investment is required to raise awareness and understanding of the Act.
·         Investment.  Further public investment is required to support asset acquisition allied to new regulations and guidance to facilitate greater levels of transfer of public assets into community ownership
·         Capacity building support. More effective and appropriate levels of community development support should be available to communities to assist in pre and post acquisition support.
·         Common Good. All Local Authorities should have accurate asset registers and strategic plans for management of common good assets. Communities should be provided with greater powers over their Common Good 
·         Crown Estates. The Crown Estate in Scotland should be reformed as proposed in the report – New Opportunities for Public Benefits and endorsed by HIE, COSLA  and six local authorities from the Highlands and Islands.
·         Research and development.  Commission longitudinal research into community asset ownership to study impact on community resilience, social capital and wider impacts on civil society.