June 17, 2015
A message from the Minister
Almost four years in the making, the Community Empowerment Bill has been through many twists and turns. Hundreds of people across the country have had their say and, both directly and indirectly, contributed to the final shape of the Bill that goes before Scottish Parliament for its Stage 3 debate today. You can watch the debate live from the Scottish Parliament here from around 2.40pm. Meanwhile, Marco Biagi MSP, the Minister responsible for bringing the Bill before Scottish Parliament has sent this note to readers of Local People Leading.
Across the country groups are achieving remarkable things in their communities, a fact Local People Leading readers will know more than most.
This Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which reaches Stage 3 in Parliament today, will take this one step further. By giving communities the powers and confidence to shape their own futures we can address inequalities more effectively.
The Bill will make it easier for communities to take control of land and property, and will provide a new right for communities to request to own, lease, use or manage land owned by the public sector.
It will also extend the community right to buy to the whole of Scotland, removing the restriction to rural areas, and will introduce a community right to buy neglected or abandoned land – even if there is no willing seller.
Blight sites which have been an eyesore to communities for years could be brought back to life through the bill.
One of the rights I’m particularly excited for Scottish Community Alliance supporters to get involved with is the participation request. This means if you are a representative group for the community and you have an idea of how you can make your area better, you gain rights to be involved at the outset with the public body responsible for delivering that service. You could be in discussions with the council, the police, the health board – any public body in a devolved area. It means a place at the table in the earliest stage.
There’s a massive difference between communities being asked for comment on ideas others have come up with, and communities being involved from the start in conceiving them. That’s what we want to see across the public sector.
The Community Empowerment Bill makes that right of community participation absolutely clear.
The Bill covers a range of issues but what underpins them all is that if you’ve got an idea, we want to help you make it happen.
Following approval in Parliament, I look forward to working with the Scottish Community Alliance and meeting more of the innovative groups who can bring the bill to life.
Together we need to make sure that the spirit of participation goes beyond Parliament and reaches out to every part of the country.
Marco Biagi MSP
Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment