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September 23, 2009

Momentum begins to build

Only a short time ago the community right to buy legislation was considered to be a defining policy of the Scottish Parliament, yet now it seems our politicians have lost interest and funding for community ownership has all but dried up. LPL called a meeting in June to discuss this and since then a number of our networks with a keen interest have come together to plan a way forward. It starts with an event in Stirling on 13th October

LPL Land Reform Seminar
13th October 2009
The Tolbooth, Stirling

The purpose of this Seminar is to consider how to promote greater progress with land reform in Scotland.

Land reform was a defining issue when the Scottish Parliament was established 10 years ago and there have been important reforms since then.  However, there is increasing recognition that there is a need now to take stock and re-build momentum to ensure a continuing programme of land reform measures.

The Seminar will be based around presentations by Robin Callander and Andy Wightman on the history and development of the land reform agenda and priorities for the future.

The Seminar follows LPL’s initial meeting about land reform in June (Note of Meeting below) and will include feedback from two other recent land reform events– The Conference at Aberdeen University on Land Reform in Scotland (3rd September) and the Seminar in North Harris on Community Land Ownership (29th / 30th September).

Anyone wishing to attend this seminar, who has not already done so, should contact:

Key outcomes of previous LPL meeting on land reform held June 16th  in Edinburgh
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.