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April 20, 2011

Who’s for us and who’s not?

Sifting through the party manifestos, it soon becomes apparent which parties have given any serious thought to the question of how our sector might be supported. It’s a pretty mixed bag. Strong cross-party consensus on the importance of communities acquiring assets, also on community ownership of renewables. And depending on who wins, new powers for community councils might be on the way

Who’s for us and who’s not
A summary of what the main parties have to say in their manifestos of direct relevance to the community sector.
For a broader analysis of party manifestos and what the implications are for the whole of the Third Sector click here

Scottish Green Party
Community renewables
 Back Public Energy Companies at local authority level, as well as a range of social enterprises that would put control of energy generation into community hands.

Land reform
 Introduce a Land Value Tax (LVT) to replace the Council Tax and business rates, which will provide incentives for sustainable business development within local planning guidelines. With an LVT system, the burden of tax is lifted from productive enterprise and shifted to those who, for example, ‘land bank’ or hold property that is in disrepair.
 Introduce a new Common Good Act that would establish democratic Common Good Trusts. Under these Trusts, local authorities in Scotland would have a duty to develop business plans for Common Good assets to support investment in community-owned, revenue generating activity such as renewable energy or recycling.
 We’ll ensure that urban communities can assert a right to buy land and community facilities.

Climate change
 Build on the success of the Climate Challenge Fund by continuing to support community projects, with additional tiers of support including a small grants scheme with minimal bureaucracy, and a ‘partnering’ system so successful projects can help build capacity in other communities. The fund would be expanded to at least £25m a year for every year of the next Parliamentary term.

Community Councils
 We’ll empower community councils to take on a legal role in decision making through planning and local urban design policy, including working towards greater localization through democratic Common Good Trusts.

Scottish Labour Party

Community renewables
 Support community organisations, co-ops and social enterprises who pursue community renewable projects.
 Fit at least 10,000 homes with community and household renewables, such as solar panels and community heat and power schemes. This will provide a new revenue stream for housing associations, co-operatives and local authorities through the feed-in tariff.

Community led regeneration
 Support community-based housing associations and housing co-operatives with a stable level of subside ensuring they are able to fulfil their roles as community anchors providing a range of services for people in their local communities. We believe the time is now right to review the role of Cooperative Development Scotland and we will consider the part it might play in supporting the creation of housing cooperatives.

 Consider the establishment of a new taskforce to identify the changing needs and challenges we face in housing supply and examine the role of local authorities, housing associations and co-operatives in increasing supply.

Community assets
 Support communities to take ownership of derelict land or rundown properties, to refurbish it or turn it into new, green space, reviewing and seeking to expand the range of funding opportunities available to enhance community-led regeneration.
 Review of land management, to ensure management agencies properly maintain the land they own. Also consider measures to free land being held in land banks.

Community transport
We will sustain the concessionary travel scheme and better link it to community transport initiatives.

Scottish Labour recognises the critical role of volunteering in supporting communities, harnessing the talents of individuals and groups and offering opportunities for skills development and inclusion. We will refresh the current volunteering strategy to update its priorities, to remove barriers to volunteering and to ensure that the necessary leadership is present to meet the demand for volunteering opportunities.

Climate Change
Maintain funding levels for the Climate Challenge Fund

Community growing
We will support new allotments and community gardens in both rural and urban areas, as a way of promoting affordable local food production.

Land Reform
On land reform, Scottish Labour will review the groundbreaking legislation we introduced in the early years of the Parliament, with a view to promoting new opportunities for communities to own and manage their assets.

Community Arts
We will support community arts, recognising that they are a vital component of developing
strong communities.

Scottish National Party

Community assets
 Propose a Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill, which will make it easier for communities to take over underused or unused public sector assets, and include measures to enable communities to deal more effectively with derelict or unused property in their area. This will act as a catalyst for a wide range of community activities and enterprises.
 We will also support community ownership of local sports facilities. The SNP government has invested heavily in funding to support the creation of social enterprises and we will encourage local communities to engage with these funding streams to take forward their plans.

Community Councils
 We want to give Scotland’s Community Councils greater relevance and more opportunities to make a difference for the areas they represent.

 Housing Associations to have greater freedom to develop renewable heat schemes within new and current developments

Community renewables
 We will ensure that renewable energy projects developed on public land are leaders in the provision of community benefit.
 Continue to support the expansion of community renewables and will look to move to a self-financing scheme based on a new support system that transfers grants to loans for those projects that are successful.
 We will encourage the development of mutualised local energy companies.
 We want to see more community benefit from renewable energy and so will take forward our proposal for a new £2.4 million fund to enable community investment in renewables projects, securing a long-term return and income for those communities who become involved.
 By taking responsibility for the Crown Estate Commission we can do more to maximise the benefits to Scotland’s communities of our offshore renewable energy wealth.

Climate change
 We are increasing funding for the community-focused Climate Challenge Fund in the year ahead and will maintain its funding over the next five years. And, on a trial basis, we will allow some schemes to generate an income, potentially helping projects move to a stronger financial footing and allowing funds to be used to support new projects. We will also establish as part of the fund a new Junior Climate Challenge Fund to encourage projects involving young Scots in their communities.

Rural communities
 We will also create a new Rural Innovation Fund to support new community enterprise initiatives in rural Scotland, helping communities establish successful local businesses. We also want to see an expansion of the mutual model in rural Scotland and will support the creation of rural co-operatives, including local energy co-operatives to enable communities to take forward their own local renewables projects. We will make the case for further devolution in this area to enable a more rapid expansion of co-operatives in rural Scotland.
 And to ensure the voice of rural Scotland is heard, we will take forward proposals for a rural parliament to enable rural communities to engage more effectively with government. 

Land Reform
 We believe it is time for a review of Scotland’s land reform legislation. For example, we believe the current period for three months for communities to take advantage of their right of first purchase is too short, and we would wish to see it extended to six months.  We will establish a Land Reform Review Group to advise on this and other improvements which we will legislate on over the course of the next five years.
 We will also establish a new Scottish Land Fund and will set out our proposals in this area by the end of 2011.

General community empowerment measures
 We will also encourage the expansion of community radio in Scotland.
 Recognise the contribution volunteering makes to stronger communities and to the delivery of services to people across Scotland.
 We will work to engage Scottish society as a whole and we will look for the best ideas and the most constructive contributions no matter where they come from. This social partnership approach has already seen us take forward ideas from the Federation of Small Businesses and the Scottish Trades Union Congress among others. For our social partnership to really work we will look to engage more directly with communities and individuals.
 Action on Litter. One issue that people continually raise with us on the doorsteps is litter. Dirty streets not only cost tens of millions of pounds to clean up every year, they also hurt civic pride and give the impression that an area is run down. We will provide leadership on this issue and seek to promote schemes which are shown to work, bringing both economic and environmental benefits.

Scottish Conservative Party

        Community growing
 Introduce a right to request disused publicly-owned land be put into use as allotments. Also provide Civil Service support to create a new Social Enterprise, “Growing Scotland”, to run an online matching service.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Party

Community assets
 Support the involvement of democratic community organisations and co-operatives in the governance of football and other sports.
 Allow communities to take over public assets and register an interest to acquire private assets of significant value to the community. Reduce the barriers to transferring local authority assets to community groups and voluntary sector organisations.
 Allow public bodies to sell assets below market value if there is demonstrable community benefit.

Double devolution
 Take a holistic approach to the delivery of public services by giving people more control over budgets, putting all of the spending by different public agencies in an area together and giving local communities influence over how the money is spent in their area. This flexible funding will avoid duplication and overlap and will allow communities to determine their own local priorities. Services will be more accountable and responsive to the needs of the area.
 Give local communities a right to hear from their local police and to influence the policing of their areas, requiring police forces to produce comprehensive community engagement plans.

Land reform
 Review the functions of the Crown Estate to ensure that the benefits of our marine resources are retained as far as possible within the communities reliant upon them.

Community renewables
 Work with communities and developers and operators to guarantee fair and meaningful community benefits from commercial renewable energy developments, including allowing communities that host projects to keep the additional business rates they generate. Seek to combine this with proposals for community land trusts, so land and housing can be bought and paid for by the energy generated within the development.
 Support community ownership of renewable energy to allow groups, co-operatives and local authorities to provide energy services through local energy networks, such as small-scale renewable and district heating schemes.

Climate change
 Encourage innovative behavioural change initiatives within communities by building on the work of the Climate Challenge Fund.

Community transport
 Support community transport and demand responsive transport schemes to improve social inclusion in areas where public transport availability is limited.

 Develop community land trusts to secure and develop land within remote or rural communities providing affordable local homes to help keep rural areas vibrant.
 Start a new system of grants to people to bring Scotland’s 70,000 empty homes back into use. We will a provide grants of up to £10,000 to home-owners who bring homes back into use, provided that they allow a housing association to rent it out for ten years.
 Ask every housing association in Scotland to follow innovative examples to offer young people work experience opportunities.

General community empowerment measures
 Break down the barriers faced by charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises in providing services, and ensure there is sustainable funding and infrastructure support for them, helping organisations to work together.