The subsequent section presents recommendations related to asset transfer requests. These recommendations are proposed to better enable achievement of the longer-term intended outcomes set out in the policy documents. Our recommendations are targeted at two key stakeholder groups involved in the asset transfer request process: the Scottish Government and relevant authorities.
Recommendations for the Scottish Government:
1. To monitor the impact of Part 5 of the Act, including longer-term outcomes of the legislation, the government should ensure that relevant authorities meet statutory annual reporting duties. This process can be facilitated by developing clear and consistent reporting techniques (for example, development of a reporting template that indicates the level of detail to be provided by relevant authorities) and defining where relevant authority reports should be submitted. Ongoing and improved reporting should be combined with follow-up research assessments enabling observation of the longer-term impacts of asset transfer requests.
2. To facilitate future reporting and evaluation of asset transfer requests, there is a need to compose a definitive list of Scottish Ministers who own or have properties in their care. Given that asset ownership may change over time, an assessment of Schedule 3 of the Act should be conducted on a regular basis. The party responsible for this assessment should be defined by the Scottish Government.
3. The Scottish Government should work with relevant stakeholders to develop guidance on valuation matrices/models determining ‘best value’ for assets. This would address challenges associated with assessing ‘best value’, which would in turn facilitate more standardisation of best value assessments by relevant authorities.
4. The Scottish Government should continue to work with its partners to identify actions that may help to overcome any barriers to the use of asset transfer requests by marginalised groups or disadvantaged communities. Specifically, a review of support services available to community transfer bodies should be undertaken, with particular emphasis on support for disadvantaged or marginalised communities/groups. The Scottish Government should identify a relevant body to conduct this review and promote access to the support services, particularly in areas of:
a. Funding: mapping funding options that support the full breadth of activities across the asset transfer request process (from the capacity building required to submit an application, through to managing and maintaining an asset and related services once the asset transfer request is completed, for example).
b. Support/Capacity: mapping low-cost or free support services including accounting/finance, the law, administration and planning/architecture.
Signposting such support services may represent the removal of a barrier to asset transfer requests for community transfer bodies across Scotland, and in disadvantaged areas in particular.
Recommendations for relevant authorities:
1. Relevant authorities covered by Part 5 of the Act should promote asset transfer requests more widely, in order to raise internal and external awareness of asset transfer requests. This may include disseminating the policy intent of asset transfer requests; and ensuring that relevant authority personnel understand the asset transfer request process, can provide relevant support to communities, and are able to minimise time delays along the asset transfer request process.
2. Relevant authorities should ensure that asset transfer requests have a transparent timeline. Long timelines strain community momentum and diminish enthusiasm. Ensuring transparency in terms of the asset transfer request process and providing community transfer bodies with transparent timelines could help establish and/or maintain good or improved relationships between relevant authorities and communities.
3. To facilitate asset transfer request submissions, relevant authorities should identify a key contact person with responsibility for asset transfer requests. This ‘first point of contact’, who understands the Act as well as community engagement and participation, would help to speed up processes, act as an effective conduit between community transfer bodies and relevant authority personnel, drive culture change in relevant authorities and allow other relevant authority personnel to focus on other responsibilities.
4. To address concerns surrounding assets becoming derelict or burdens on communities, relevant authorities should undertake work to promote clearer agreements, ensure understanding of the long-term responsibilities associated with running an asset, and check group capacity to deliver. Defining clearer routes for transferred assets if community transfer body activities terminate may mitigate against assets becoming burdens on communities or derelict.
5. Relevant authorities should work with key stakeholders to address difficulties in quantifying community benefits and calculating the level of discount to offer to communities. Developing relevant authority capacity and experience in assessment systems (best value assessment, for example) would be beneficial to both relevant authorities and community transfer bodies. Finally, ensuring that best value assessments are explicitly related to addressing inequalities may reduce barriers for disadvantaged communities.
6. Relevant authorities should encourage groups from marginalised communities to consider whether asset transfer requests could benefit them. This can happen through an active promotion of Part 5 of the Act with relevant communities, as well as developing tailored and accessible support, including translations and easy-read documents where appropriate.