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New powers for Scotland's communities

7th November 2013

Plans for greater local decision making.

A new law will make it easier for communities to take over public sector land and buildings, reform the community right to buy and give communities greater say in the provision of services.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is designed to strengthen and nurture community participation and encourage enterprising community development.

Communities will be able to identify and ask for any public sector land or buildings that they feel they could make better use of than its current owner.

The decision whether to transfer that asset will be based on which proposed use would provide the greatest benefit to the community.

Legislation will be updated and simplified to support local authorities' provision and management of allotments.

Local authorities will have a duty to provide allotments linked to and triggered by actual demand and to protect permanent allotment sites from closure.

Where current allotment provision is not sufficient to satisfy demand, the local authority will be under a duty to keep waiting lists below a specified target whether by acquiring land or otherwise.

There will be new duties to strengthen Community Planning, so that public sector agencies work as one to deliver better outcomes for communities

Views will also be invited on how communities might benefit from legislation to improve the national and local focus on improving outcomes, currently implemented through Scotland Performs.

The Bill also proposes:

Streamlining and extending the existing community right to buy to cover urban and rural communities as part of our ambition to have 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020.

Providing new powers to help councils deal with defective and dangerous buildings, and to provide local relief schemes on business rates.

Increasing transparency about the management and use of Common Good assets.

Launching the Bill consultation at Castlemilk Stables in Glasgow, Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay said:

Scotland's people are its greatest asset and it is only with the confidence that comes with independence that people will be able to fully determine their own futures.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is about people and communities taking their own decisions about their future.

This will build on the support of the Scottish Government, set out by the First Minister in the Lerwick Declaration, for subsidiarity and local decision making.

The Bill will help community groups to take over public land and buildings where they think they can make better use of them than their current public sector owners.

This Bill will also reform the community right to buy, giving urban communities in Scotland same rights as rural communities, where it is in the public interest.

Rules on Scotland's allotments will also be simplified. Allotments foster a community spirit and provide a range of benefits such as a cheap source of fresh fruit and vegetables, and therefore a healthy diet.

COSLA President, Cllr David O'Neill, today welcomed the consultation saying:COSLA welcomes the extension of the duty of Community Planning to encompass the whole of the public sector, which we believe will improve how partners work together locally and deliver better outcomes for our communities.

"We are also delighted to see the Scottish Government being explicit in its commitment to local democracy.

To this end, COSLA will be arguing that the European Charter for Local Self-Government, mentioned in the consultation, should be enacted as part of the Bill, thus guaranteeing the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities."

The Carnegie UK Trust said:"We welcome todays publication of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill which contains a range of proposals that we believe will help Scotland's communities to thrive.

In particular, we support the proposal to place a duty on Scottish Ministers to develop, consult on and publish the outcomes they seek for the people of Scotland. Scotland is already recognised as an international leader on measuring wellbeing through its use of Scotland Performs.

The proposals would put this approach on the statute books, enabling and requiring future governments to also set out their own vision for improving the wellbeing of the people of Scotland, and ensuring that we can hold them to account for progress towards better outcomes.

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