1.1. The Scottish Government is determined to see a Scotland where community-led action is celebrated and community ownership is desirable and viable.
1.2. Ownership or control of land and buildings is a powerful tool for communities to drive change and achieve their own goals. In the first place it provides a base for activities and services that might not otherwise be accessible to members of a particular community, and can provide jobs, training and bring income to the local area. More widely, it can provide stability and sustainability for the community organisation, allowing them to develop new initiatives and support other developing groups, and it can create a stronger sense of community identity, cohesion and involvement.
1.3. Many communities in Scotland have already taken on ownership of assets, from public sector or private sellers. A baseline study carried out by the Community Ownership Support Service ( COSS) in 2012 identified 2740 community assets owned by community bodies, and there has been increased interest in recent years. Many local authorities, and some public bodies, have operated successful asset transfer schemes, mainly in relation to property they have identified for disposal. There is a thriving network of community landowners, both rural and urban, as well as a range of lease, management and partnership arrangements, and plenty of examples to show the benefits communities can deliver, given the right opportunity.
1.4. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 moves forward from this voluntary approach by the public sector, and introduces a right for community bodies to make requests to all local authorities, Scottish Ministers and a wide-ranging list of public bodies, for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of. Community bodies can request ownership, lease or other rights, as they wish. The Act requires those public authorities to assess requests transparently against a specified list of criteria, and to agree the request unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal. This shifts the balance of power clearly towards the community body, and ensures that asset transfer is available throughout Scotland.
1.5. Despite the introduction of a statutory scheme, much of the existing best practice will still apply. COSS, funded by the Scottish Government, has developed advice for both community bodies and public sector authorities, based on experience of supporting organisations through the existing, voluntary schemes. A range of other organisations can also provide support to community bodies in developing their proposals, depending on their location and the type of project they have in mind. Links to some helpful websites are provided in Annex C.