Allotments: further guidance for local authorities: analysis of consultation responses
Analysis of consultation responses to guidance to local authorities on Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 on allotments.
1. Introduction and background
1.1 Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (or the Act) aimed to update and simplify legislation relating to allotments in Scotland. The Act (Part 9) also made provisions for Scottish Ministers to issue guidance to local authorities with regard to their duties relating to allotments. The Scottish Government issued a consultation paper seeking views to help inform the development of the guidance for local authorities. The consultation ran from 25 August to 17 November 2017. This report presents findings from the analysis of the responses received to the consultation.
1.2 The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the development of allotments and community growing spaces. This commitment was included in Scotland's original national food and drink policy, Recipe for Success,  published in 2009, and was further demonstrated in the Scottish Government's establishment of and continued support for the Grow Your Own Working Group. 
1.3 The current, refreshed National Food and Drink Policy: Becoming a Good Food Nation, issued in 2014, restates this commitment and emphasises the importance of 'Grow-Your-Own' as a way of encouraging access to healthy, affordable, sustainable food. In order to take this commitment forward, the Act included provisions to help communities to access land for growing food. The Act also aimed to update and simplify current legislation relating to allotments. It introduced new local authority duties relating to the provision of allotments, and provisions for Scottish Ministers to issue guidance to local authorities on carrying out their allotment duties (in Part 9 of the Act).
1.4 A tripartite group involving the Scottish Government, local authorities and the Scottish Allotment and Garden Society was established in 2016 in order to allow constructive dialogue between key stakeholders and to monitor how Part 9 of the Act is being implemented. The Group meets quarterly (with the first meeting held in May 2016) and is accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.
1.5 The Scottish Government is now in the process of developing guidance for local authorities, and is working in collaboration with the tripartite group in taking this work forward. Not all aspects of local authority duties under the Act require additional guidance and the consultation focused on those sections of the Act where it was thought that additional guidance would be helpful. A consultation was launched in August 2017 which aimed to give all interested parties an opportunity to contribute to the development of the guidance.
1.6 The responses to the consultation will help ensure the guidance is appropriate and beneficial to local authorities and other interested parties.
1.7 The consultation paper summarised (i) the current legislative arrangements relating to allotments and the implications of the Act, and (ii) the related policy framework for allotments in Scotland. It then presented a proposed statement for each of the sections of the Act where it is anticipated that guidance will be issued, covering:
- Offer to lease allotment (section 110)
- Duty to maintain waiting list (section 111)
- Duty to provide allotments (section 112)
- Access to allotments and allotment site (section 114)
- Allotment site regulations (section 115)
- Allotment site regulations: further provisions (section 116)
- Duty to prepare food-growing strategy (section 119)
- Duty to review food-growing strategy (section 120)
- Delegation of management of allotment sites (section 123)
- Promotion and use of allotments: expenditure (section 124).
1.8 Each statement set out the proposed wording of the local authority guidance, and respondents were invited to give their views.
1.9 There were ten consultation questions altogether. Questions 1 to 9 focused on ten sections of the Act, as discussed above (one question, Question 5, covers two related sections). A final question (Question 10) asked for views on whether any other sections of the Act would benefit from guidance. All the questions used the same two-part format and comprised a tick-box question offering a five-point scale for indicating level of agreement (strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree) and a space for additional comments.
1.10 The consultation paper and online questionnaire could be accessed on the Scottish Government consultation hub.
About the analysis
1.11 This report presents the findings of the analysis of the responses to the questions included in the consultation.
1.12 For each of the ten consultation questions the response to the initial tick-box question is presented in table format in order to give an indication of the balance of opinion on the section of the guidance under consideration. The findings of the analysis of qualitative comments made by respondents are then presented. The analysis focuses on common themes. It presents the range of views expressed by respondents and highlights areas of agreement and disagreement amongst respondents.
1.13 There are a number of points which should be noted about the analysis presented in this report:
- In this consultation respondents were presented with a five-point scale in order to indicate their agreement or disagreement with the statement provided at each question (see paragraphs 1.8 and 1.9). However, the statement provided often covered a range of issues, or a range of different aspects of the issue to be covered by the guidance. Respondents who provided additional comments often focused on individual specific points rather than the statement as a whole. As a result, it was difficult to interpret the initial tick-box responses ( i.e. whether respondents were indicating agreement or disagreement with all or part of the statement). The difficulty of selecting a single tick-box to indicate agreement or disagreement with a complex statement was noted by several respondents.
- It was also apparent that respondents often offered similar comments, regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed, or the extent of their agreement or disagreement with the statement at the tick-box question. This made it difficult to understand what agreement or disagreement meant in terms of the guidance.
- The number of responses from organisations, and local authorities / public bodies in particular, was small and care should be taken in interpreting any apparent differences between the response from organisations in comparison with individuals (or between types of organisation).
1.14 Given the above points, the figures in the tables indicating levels of agreement and disagreement should be treated with caution.
1.15 It should also be noted that, while the focus of this consultation was on the development of local authority guidance, respondents often made comments of a more general nature. In such cases respondents discussed views on legislation, policy and practice related to allotments, Grow-Your-Own initiatives and sustainable food, and often repeated similar points across different questions. This report presents an analysis of the range of all views submitted while highlighting, where possible, direct comment or implications relevant for the proposed local authority guidance.
1.16 As with all consultations, the views submitted and presented in this report are not necessarily representative of the views of the wider public. Anyone can submit their views to a consultation, and individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate than those who do not. This means that the views of participants cannot be generalised to the wider population.
1.17 For this reason, the main focus in analysing consultation responses is not to identify how many people hold particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed.
1.18 The report aims to give an overview of the main themes and points discussed by respondents in their submissions to the consultation. It cannot cover all the detailed points included in individual responses. The Scottish Government will, however, consider the responses in full as it takes forward development of the guidance.
1.19 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:
- Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents to the consultation and the responses submitted.
- Chapters 3 to 12 provide the results of the analysis of responses to the consultation questions.
- Annexes to the report present a full list of organisational respondents ( Annex 1), and the response rates for individual questions ( Annex 2).
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