A ‘how to’ guide for responding to the Community Empowerment consultation, other folks’ views, and a consultation event

We know producing a consultation response can seem a bit daunting, so we’ve put together a wee guide which we hope you find helpful: Consultation response guide (see also link on Resources page of Scottish Communities CAN website)

The Scottish Government have launched the consultation for the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill and we have gathered a couple of responses for your perusal:

Community Development Alliance Scotland (CDAS)’ response is constructive http://www.communitydevelopmentalliancescotland.org/frontpage/community-empowerment-scotland-bill-consultation-launched and invites us all to an event on 12 December, which sounds like an excellent opportunity to unpick some of the issues through discussion: http://www.communitydevelopmentalliancescotland.org/events/cesb-event (also add to Events page of Scottish Communities CAN website)

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)’s blog was pretty scathing, bemoaning the lack of meaningful empowerment outlined in the bill: http://www.scvo.org.uk/policy/policy-blog/searching-for-empowerment-in-the-community-empowerment-bill/

Two further responses from Angus at Scottish Communities Alliance and a Kieran Wild of Scottish Communities CAN:

Angus Hardie, Scottish Communities Alliance

A well-worn philosophy from the world of business says that the way to manage expectations is to under-promise and over-deliver.  An early assessment of the draft Community Empowerment Bill suggests that Scottish Government holds no truck with such Machiavellian ways – in fact quite the reverse.  Initial reaction to the proposals has been underwhelming.

Even the Minister responsible, Derek Mackay MSP, in his Q&A session at last week’s Senscot conference, suggested we might have expected more from the Bill. So why promise so much at the outset and deliver so little? It’s such a marked contrast that you almost wonder whether some reverse psychology is at work – massively over-promise (to stir up debate) but deliver just enough (and no more) to whet the appetite for more in the future.

We always knew the idea of communities being on the receiving end of ‘the largest transfer of power since devolution’ would meet with fierce opposition– particularly from those who hold so much sway over what communities currently do.  So is this Bill simply intended as a minor staging post in a much longer journey that the Scottish Government wants us to travel?   Now that would be truly Machiavellian.

 

Kieran Wild, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network

The Community Empowerment Bill is worth reading and responding to.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is a proposed change to the law by the SNP government with the aim of giving communities more powers to take control of land and buildings and to have more influence over decision making. The first consultation paper was published in the summer of 2012 where a very broad range of ideas and suggestions were discussed. Compared to other European countries Scotland and the UK still have a rather feudal system of land tenure. The previous Land Reform (Scotland) Act that came into force in 2003 included a section giving rural communities the right to buy to land although it is fair to say this Act has not radically changed the balance of land tenure in Scotland. The current draft Bill in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill includes allowing urban areas the right to buy, so that in itself is a big step forward.

Some have already expressed disappoint that some of the more radical ideas discussed in the initial Consultation document have not made it into this second stage. I share the disappointment that under this Bill the concept of “Community Right to Buy” is still a bit of a misnomer because the power still resides with the land owner.

There are still positive aspects of the Bill that are worth your time understanding and giving your point of view on. The Bill is split into three sections:

  •   Chapter 3 covers areas discussed in the previously consultation and how they have been drafted legislation in the appendix,
  •  Chapter 4 covers detailed policy questions that have yet to make into draft legislation
  • Chapter 5 covers new policy ideas on wider issues on the organisation of local government.

There are a lot of points in the Bill that could be of interest to community groups and development trusts.

  • Chapter 3 include sections that cover the details of “Asset Transfer Requests” how a community group can request a piece of land or a building, “Participation Requests” how a community group or a Community Council can formally request that a public service authority consults meaningfully over a local issue, increasing transparency over Common Good land and assets and how to better deal with defective and dangerous buildings.
  • Chapter 4 includes more details on the process of the right to buy such as the valuation of land and the community ballot process, changing the Council’s “Community Planning” system, changing the law on allotments and changing the relief schemes for non-domestic business rates.
  • Chapter 5 asks about changing local democracy structures and asks about the impact of the Bill.

As you can see this Bill covers a really wide range of things and the complex and legalistic nature of the consultation paper is likely to scare off a lot of people who might have important things to say about the issues involved. I would recommend printing out the document and physically separating each chapter so it is easier to approach. Remember that you don’t need to respond to all of it, if you have an interest in allotments or how to deal with dangerous buildings, for example, you can just comment on those sections.

Overall if what is being discussed makes it into law and the SNP’s stated target of one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020 is close to be achieved they will deserve a lot of credit, but the wider community need to make sure that this Bill will actually work in practice.

The Community Empowerment Bill consultation documents – responses are due by the 24th of January 2014 and you can read here.

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