2. Background to asset transfer requests
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (The Act) is central to empowering community bodies, strengthening their voices in local decision-making, ownership of land and buildings and supporting public sector reform by improving the process of community planning and its outcomes. Through the Act, the Scottish Government seeks to empower communities to play increasingly active roles in managing, leasing, and owning local assets.
Part 5 of the Act is directly concerned with the improvement and development of local assets, through asset transfer requests. Part 5 of the Act gives community groups known as community transfer bodies the right to request to buy, lease, or manage assets from relevant authorities.
Asset transfer is not a new process: relevant authorities have existing schemes and processes for properties deemed suitable for community use and, crucially, surplus to requirements (Myers et al., 2017). Until the introduction of the Act, however, such processes were not formal nor explicitly linked to community empowerment policies (DTAS, 2010). The introduction of Part 5 of the Act sought to complement these existing processes (Myers et al., 2017). As a result, the new provision aims to increase uniformity across relevant authorities by introducing the right for communities to request to buy, lease or manage any land, structures or buildings owned by relevant authorities if they believe it will benefit their community. Through asset transfer provision, the Scottish Government aims to achieve positive change, enhance local development, empower communities and reduce inequalities.
The asset transfer request process begins when a community transfer body submits a request to a relevant authority, requesting ownership, lease, or other rights of an asset. A community transfer body can either be a community controlled body (defined in Section 19 of the Act) or a body designated by the Scottish Ministers. Asset transfer requests can be made to any relevant authority as listed in Schedule 3 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. This includes land or buildings owned or in the care of Scottish Ministers. Other relevant authorities (listed in Schedule 3 of the Act) include local authorities, further education colleges, regional transport partnerships, and ‘other’ organisations (Appendix 1). Following receipt of an asset transfer request, the relevant authority assesses the request, in line with defined criteria detailed in the Scottish Government Guidance on asset transfer requests (2017), and issues a decision notice. This process is set out in Appendix 2. Unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal, the relevant authority must agree to the request. If an asset transfer request is refused, community transfer bodies can seek a review or appeal.