A proposed bill to give more power to Scotland’s communities could see the biggest transfer of power since devolution. The proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill would give more power to Scotland’s communities. The exploratory consultation on the Bill, which was debated at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, is currently seeking views on a range of ideas which could see more power in the hands of communities:
- Urban right to buy – extending the right that currently exists for rural communities to buy land to urban communities.
- Right to take over unused or underused public sector land and buildings – either the right to request a transfer, or possibly a presumptive right to take over a public sector asset when it can be shown it is unused or underused and the asset owner was not able to show plans for future use.
- Right to use and access unused land – where it can be shown that land, in public or private sector ownership, is unused or underused and the asset owner is not able to show plans for future use. This could include a “community right to grow”, giving communities a right to access unused land and plant flowers, crops or trees.
- Community compulsory purchase – communities often identify areas of land or a building in their area that are unused and causing problems and could be brought back into use. Currently local authorities have powers to compulsorily purchase property if it is in the public interest to do so; communities could be given similar powers.
- Participatory budgeting – giving communities more direct control over how public sector money is spent in local areas.
- Overarching duty to engage – to replace individual duties to engage with communities placed on different public sector bodies with one overarching duty.
Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said: “The Community Empowerment and Renewal bill is potentially the biggest transfer of power since devolution, transferring power from central and local Government to Scotland’s communities. We believe that the people of Scotland are best placed to take decisions about their future – both at a national and a local level.
“Scotland’s people are its greatest asset and are a rich source of creativity and talent. The Scottish Government wants to see all Scots having a greater say in shaping and deciding their own futures. This exploratory consultation sets out a range of ideas to support Scotland’s communities to take independent action to achieve their goals and aspirations and to have their voices heard in the decisions that affect them.
“Travelling across Scotland I have seen at first hand the strong foundation of active communities we already have, and I want this proposed legislation to build on this. The ideas in this consultation are designed to strengthen community participation, unlock enterprising community development and renew our communities. These ideas were developed following discussions with the wider public, private, third and community sectors.
“We want to explore these ideas and see how we can remove bureaucratic barriers and develop a meaningful and effective legislative framework to support community activity. We are determined that we develop effective legislation that will make a difference in practice.
“Working with our partners in Local Government, we will listen carefully to people’s views and ideas to help meet our shared goal of empowering more of Scotland’s communities. The views we hear will help determine what we take forward in our draft Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.”