Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill Consultation


The Scottish Government (the Government) is currently consulting on a proposed expansion of the community right to buy as well as other issues such as common good property.

Existing legislation already gives communities with a population of less than 10,000 the right to apply to register an interest in land – and the opportunity to buy that land when it comes up for sale. Communities have not been shy using this right, with over half a million acres of land in rural areas being transferred to community ownership in the last ten years.

The Government now has a target of one million acres in community land ownership by 2020.

Some of the key proposals

The Government launched the Consultation in November 2013. The proposals include:-

Asset Transfer Requests

The Consultation says that the public sector can be "a useful source of assets which can benefit from being transferred into community ownership or management". The Government is therefore proposing that community bodies should be able to submit requests setting out their plans for public sector land and buildings – with the relevant public sector body having to respond in a transparent and rational way, making its decision based on an assessment of the best public benefit which can be gained from a particular ownership or use of the property. In particular, the Consultation invites views on what rights of appeal community bodies should have against public sector bodies' decisions.
Extension of the Community Right to Buy

The Government proposes to extend the right to buy to communities in all parts of Scotland (including urban areas), where the Government is satisfied that it is in the public interest. The Consultation specifically invites comments on aspects such as the level of support which should be needed to register a community interest in land and the timescales which should be allowed for completing the right to buy.

At the moment, only companies limited by guarantee can apply to register a community interest in land. The Government proposes that other legal entities – for example Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations – should also be able to apply.

While the existing community right to buy allows a community to register an interest in land, the community can only buy the land if the owner decides to sell. The Consultation invites comments on whether there should be a compulsory power for communities to buy neglected or abandoned land in certain circumstances.

The Consultation also asks whether communities should be able to apply to register an interest in land where land unexpectedly comes on the market and they had not considered using the community right to buy.
A Register of Common Good Property

The Consultation proposes a new statutory duty on local authorities to establish and keep a register of all property held by them for the common good – plus obligations on local authorities to consult community councils and other community bodies about the disposal and use of that property.

What next?

The deadline for consultation responses is 24 January 2014. The Government is aiming to review the responses, issue a report on the consultation process by spring 2014 and introduce its Bill to the Scottish Parliament before the end of the 2013-14 Parliamentary year.