News In Focus
Community Empowerment Bill given final approval
The bill giving communities more powers in relation to unused land and buildings and a say on how their services are delivered, has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.
By 101 votes to nil, with 15 abstentions, MSPs approved the Scottish Government's Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which will apply to both urban and rural areas. Its effects could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use.
Conservative members abstained on the basis that the bill gives too much power to ministers rather than requiring matters to be prescribed in regulations.
Local authorities and public bodies will come under 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.
Community groups will have the opportunity to be involved in discussions on service with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage, while ministers will have powers to involve people and communities in funding decisions, like participatory budgeting.
The bill will also provide stronger protection for allotments and encourage councils to create new allotments in response to demand.
During the debate the minister, Marco Biagi, pointed out the bill could apply not only to local communities but to "communities of interest" – people who share an interest, a background or an activity – as groups that could take on ownership of assets.
He also confirmed that ministers will shortly launch a consultation on what future legislation should be developed to enhance the rights of football supporters in the decision making, running and potentially the ownership of their clubs.
Speaking after the vote to approve the bill, Mr Biagi said: “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.
He added: “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.”