MSPs pass Community Empowerment Bill

Marco Biagi
Marco Biagi

The Scottish Parliament has approved a bill giving communities the right to buy land or buildings in their area.

Passed by MSPs yesterday, the Community Empowerment Bill will give communities more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas – this could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use.

The law will also mean local authorities and public bodies will have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities. Instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups can put forward their case for why a community centre would be better run by the community itself.

The legislation will provide stronger protection for allotments and encourage councils to create new allotments in response to demand.

It will give community groups the opportunity to be involved in discussions on service with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage while ministers will also have powers to involve people and communities in funding decisions, like participatory budgeting.

Speaking after the vote to approve the bill, local government minister Marco Biagi said: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.

“By giving people more powers to take over land, buildings and services, communities that may have been excluded in the past, can identify the best ways to improve their area and take forward regeneration on their own terms.

“It will now be easier for buildings and land in both urban and rural areas that may have been underused to be transformed into community gardens and facilities.

“Communities now have a framework to take action in areas that are important to them, they will be able to improve services like education or childcare.

“I look forward to hearing ideas from communities across Scotland on how they will use this bill to achieve plans they have to help the areas in which they live. When people have greater control of their own future, they are more engaged and are able to tackle barriers to making their communities wealthier and fairer.”

Welcoming the new bill, Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS) said it will have a “very significant” impact on local communities.

Petra Biberbach, chief executive of PAS, said: “Recently we have seen an unprecedented level of national interest and engagement in how much say people have on where they live and how it evolves. This legislation will empower communities further and put them right at the heart of the discussion. As an organisation whose overarching aim is to help build active citizenship and give people the opportunity to create the places they want, this is a very important step in that journey.

“Scotland will now be able to lead the way in shaping its communities and delivering the best possible places for future generations.”

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