July 1, 2015
Allotment lobbying pays off
Right from the outset it was clear that the Scottish Government intended that the Community Empowerment Bill should impact on many different areas of community life. So it could have come as no surprise to them that there was such an extraordinary range of interest groups who lobbied and submitted evidence throughout the process. To their credit, the Scottish Government were in listening mode right up to the last minute. Some of the lobbying was pretty impressive too. In particular, Scotland’s allotmenteers can be proud of their achievements.
FUTURE generations of growers will be able to feed their families from their own veg patches after the standard size of an allotment was protected by law.
Green fingered enthusiasts will continue to be offered a 250 square metres (820 sq ft) plot after a hard-fought campaign by allotment holders.
Members of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society celebrated after ministers accepted last minute changes to new legislation.
They had feared the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Bill would spell the end of the standard plot by encouraging local authorities to offer smaller areas in order to reduce lengthy waiting lists.
But ministers accepted a series of changes shortly before a final vote on the Bill.
The campaign’s Mark Thirgood said: “We have come a long way, and the revised Bill recognises the unique nature of Scotland’s allotments and the contribution they make to food policy, health and well-being, social justice, CO2 emissions reduction and enhancing the natural environment.
“It should serve Scotland’s allotment community well going forward.”
He added: “We would like to thank the Scottish Government for supporting legislation that recognises the importance of allotments in the modern world.”
The Community Empowerment Bill defines the standard plot as 250 square metres (820 sq ft), a size accepted for the past 50 years.
However it allows people to request a smaller patch if that is too big for them to manage.
The new laws also oblige councils to “take reasonable steps” to increase the amount of land available for allotments if people face a five year wait or if the number waiting exceeds 50 per cent of a local authorities total plots.
Councils will also have to charge a fair rent and consult ministers before closing an existing allotment site.
The measures give greater protection to allotments in Scotland than the rest of the UK, reversing a position which has allowed 90 per cent of the country’s plots to disappear since the Second World War compared with around half in the rest of the UK.
Before the final vote, ministers accepted changes proposed by opposition MSPs during committee stages of the Bill.
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh said: “We know how beneficial allotments are for our health and wellbeing and I am hopeful that this Bill will make a big difference in meeting the growing demand that exists in Scotland.
“What’s interesting is that it has been the direct involvement of ’empowered’ allotment holders that has rescued this proposed legislation from several potential pitfalls.
“Of course the real test will come when we put the act into practice, will it deliver more allotments, fewer people waiting and more people with a plot of their own.
“If it does we should all thank SAGS for their efforts”.
The new legislation will also extend the existing community right-to-buy scheme to urban areas.
Ministers aim to make it easier for community groups to bring derelict public land and buildings back into use.
It is hoped groups will grow their own food, develop play facilities for young people.
As MSPs debated the Bill, ministers also agreed to launch a consultation on possible future legislation to help football fans play a greater role in running – and potentially owning – their club.
Mr Biagi said: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to de-centralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.”