The Scottish Government is currently progressing a bill (Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill) through Holyrood that if passed could help support community development and community ownership of land and buildings, essentially providing power to the people to reform their local communities to better serve the local needs of a community.
The bill is currently at Stage 1 out of three stages, and the Bill is officially described as;
A Bill to make provision about national outcomes; to confer functions on certain persons in relation to services provided by, and assets of, certain public bodies; to amend Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003; to enable certain bodies to buy abandoned or neglected land; to make provision for registers of common good property and about disposal and use of such property; to restate and amend the law on allotments; to enable local authorities to reduce or remit non-domestic rates; and for connected purposes.
The bill if passed can provide better engagement between local authorities and community groups for the provision of land and facilities that can be utilised better for improved community cohesion, with scope for communities to take ownership of local facilities and land.
With Lochgelly losing the Lochgelly Community Centre, which is now an Arts & Theatre facility, losing the Common Good Land at the Lochgelly Town House, and losing access to the Miners Institute, Lochgelly public buildings are slowly being taken away from Lochgelly residents.
If the Bill is passed, community groups will have options to seek ownership of land and public buildings, if there is a need within a community. Residents will also be able to form their own constituted groups for this sole purpose.
The Bill certainly has many positives which can help benefit local communities, especially Lochgelly which is currently losing public facilities, and with this in mind, we have became members of a new innovative project based in Glasgow, Blueprint Scotland, which aims to;
Blueprint Scotland is a community organisation for every Scottish citizen. We aim to help communities buy land and re-claim unused government buildings. We see a future where social problems such as homelessness and poverty will be eradicated. Through land ownership, free lifelong learning, and community growth will be the focus of Blueprint Scotland. We seek to expand existing communities and create new communities.
The Bill still has many hurdles to overcome politically, but we believe that the bill will have a positive impact on communities, such as Lochgelly where there is a need for community ownership of public buildings for wider community benefit.
For those that are interested in learning more about the Bill, the Scottish Rural Parliament, which is not a formal part of Government, nor a legislative or decision-making body, but a process of bottom-up processes of involvement and debate between rural communities and policy makers to enable better understanding, improved policy and action to address rural issues, will be holding their #ruralhour event tonight between 9-10pm on Twitter.
Users on twitter can ask any questions related to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Rural Parliament, details of the event can be found at: http://www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/event/communityempowerbill-scotland/