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
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.