National Asset Transfer Action Group: January 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Kathleen Glazik (Chair) - Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Cowie - Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Rebekah Dundas – Scottish Land Fund
  • Linda Gillespie – Community Ownership Support Service
  • Rebecca Carr – Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Maureen Burgess – Fife Voluntary Action
  • Christine Clarke – Dumfries and Galloway Third Sector Interface
  • Pauline Bradshaw – Glasgow City Council
  • Angus Hardie – Scottish Community Alliance
  • Richard Kelly – Glasgow City Council
  • Jillian Matthew – Audit Scotland
  • Helen Emery – NHS Highland
  • Philip Prentice – Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Sandra Holmes – Highland and Islands Enterprise
  • Sarah Baird – South Ayrshire Council
  • Euan Campbell - Scottish Government
  • Lucile Rankin - Scottish Government
  • Geraldine Campbell - Scottish Government
  • Dave Thomson - Scottish Government


  • Allan Roberts – Transport Scotland
  • Neil Mcinroy - Scottish Government

Items and actions

1. Welcome and Introductions

1.1 The Chair welcomed new members to the group, Helen Emery, NHS Highland; Lucile Rankin, Principal Property Adviser for Scottish Government; and Geraldine Campbell, Regional Economic Development and Community Wealth Building Team, Scottish Government. 

1.2 Apologies were noted.

2. Update on Activityelen

2.1 The Chair provided a brief summary of the Local Government and Communities Committee’s evidence session with Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government on 13 January 2021.  This is part of their scrutiny of Parts 3 and 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 - Participation Requests and Asset Transfer.   The Cabinet Secretary highlighted the importance of the group’s work in responding to the asset transfer evaluation report’s recommendations and in informing areas of concern to the committee such as social value on return, Arm’s Length Executive Organisations (ALEO’s) and designation, low annual reporting, the need for a single point of contact at an appropriate level within relevant authorities, and the focus on what can be done to tackle inequalities. 

2.2      The Chair referred to the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) new guide on Managing Risk in Asset Transfer published on 18 December 2020 and asked members to share more widely with their networks. The link is: Managing Risk in Asset Transfer 2020 (COSS)

2.3      The Chair spoke about the Community Empowerment Team’s meeting with the Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) in December 2020 to discuss the asset transfers appeals process.  This  included a positive discussion about the roles of each team and shared learning from appeals to date. 

3. Minute of Last Meeting

3.1 The minutes of the last meeting held on 28 October 2020 were agreed.  

3.2  Actions have been progressed as follows:

  • New members invited as outlined in 1.1 above. Neil Mcinroy from the Community Wealth Building team has confirmed that he will join the group but was unavailable for today’s meeting.

4.  Presentation: Overview: The role of Scottish Government for asset transfer activity.

4.1 Malcolm Cowie, Scottish Government Asset Transfer Policy Manager,  delivered a PowerPoint providing an overview of the Community Empowerment Team’s asset transfer policy role. This included the team’s work in commissioning Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) three year evaluation report, its publication, dissemination, and action to respond to the recommendations; establishing a process for considering asset transfer appeals, liaising with community organisations, relevant authorities and DPEA, agreeing information sharing protocols, and ultimately providing advice to Ministers for final decision; commissioning COSS to support and guide asset transfer activity locally; consulting with stakeholders and producing an asset transfer reporting template for relevant authority annual reporting, and collating national data; forming and providing secretariat to this group.

4.2 Malcolm provided an update on appeals and reported that 9 appeals had been received since the Act came into force in January 2017.  That is from 249 applications that we know off with the majority of those agreed and many more still being processed.  Members highlighted that some relevant authorities were occasionally made aware of asset transfer requests only when the final request was submitted, and if earlier contact/communication had been established the request could have stood a better chance of success and minimised progressing to appeal.  The group was clear that an Appeals mechanism is very important but better understanding of the process would be valuable to help shape advise based on learning to date.   It was also stated that relevant authorities did not wish for community groups to put in valuable time and effort for asset transfer requests that were unlikely to stand up to scrutiny and assessment, and felt a better understanding of the Act through time would help improve this process.  Another suggestion was some form of support or advocacy for community organisations relating to the appeals process. 

Action: Invite a DPEA representative and/or Reporter to the next meeting for further discussion.

4.3 Malcolm also noted that the Local Government and Communities Committee’s  findings and final report with recommendations will be a helpful source of information.  Date not yet known but possibly by Spring 2021.

5. Presentation: The Role of the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS)

5.1 Linda Gillespie, Manager of the Community Ownership Support Service provided an overview of the work of COSS who are funded by Scottish Government and updated the group on their activities across all 32 local authority areas in Scotland. They help community-based groups of place and interest to take control of assets for community benefit using asset transfers, and they also support the relevant authorities to transfer assets into community control.

5.2 COSS does this by providing 1-2-1 adviser-led support for community groups which is free to access, they host a comprehensive website for asset transfer information and deliver a range of workshops.  The bespoke support for the relevant authorities includes reviewing their asset transfer procedures; interdepartmental training; managing risk; and general advice.

5.3 Linda highlighted that COSS are running an online seminar in February on Managing Risk in Asset Transfer, aimed at relevant authorities and stakeholders.

Action: Linda to share details with this group. 

6. Draft paper for discussion: Calculating Social Value

6.1 Malcolm introduced the draft Calculating Social Value Discussion Paper he produced and shared with the group prior to the meeting. Evidence was gathered from published materials from a wide range of sources and also initial thoughts were sought from SG Third Sector and Analytical colleagues. Findings from GCU’s evaluation report also helped inform the paper as challenges around calculating social value and working out social return on investment had been identified. The report included a recommendation that Scottish Government work with stakeholders to develop guidance on determining best value and a separate recommendation for relevant authorities to work with key stakeholders to address challenges associated with quantifying community benefit and calculating the level of discount to offer to communities

6.2 The group welcomed the paper and felt it was useful to start a conversation about a complex issue.  Members shared their own practical experience of calculating social value and the tools.  For example, Forestry and Land Scotland use their own in house evaluation tool: How are Asset Transfer Requests evaluated? - Forestry and Land Scotland  Another example is Highlands and Islands Enterprise is exploring ways to calculate social value and is due to conduct a series of workshops on the topic over the next few months. The new Managing Risk in Asset Transfer Guide was highlighted as a useful tool to support relevant authorities when considering value provided by community groups. The support from COSS was highlighted as critical to supporting this process and helping promote and embed asset transfer activity. Support from the Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Community Asset Team, and the Community Woodland Association were also highlighted as enabling positive asset transfer activity.

6.3  It was also highlighted that this work needs to connect to the wellbeing economy frame[should that be framework?] and associated indicators being developed in that context so we develop an integrated approach to measurement that reaches across a wide range of activity and doesn’t ‘stream’ a set of disconnected activity. To help make this policy and delivery connection process needs to be robust and membership from the Community Wealth Building (CWB) team was welcomed on the group. CWB colleagues will be able to share lessons from CWB work being progressed in a number of localities across Scotland, including experience of asset transfer activity. 

6.4 The group also discussed the various options of taking on assets through asset transfer and that lease or management arrangements could be an option to minimise risk if that would suit the community organisation. This could provide the space and time for community groups to secure funding required for full ownership.

6.5 Generally members could see the benefits of SROI tools but also expressed caution due to the subjective nature of the process when attributing scores.  It was highlighted that a number of relevant authorities already use SROI tools and these will be shared with the community empowerment team.  Malcolm will develop the discussion paper further to inform future action which could involve national guidance.

Action: Members to share examples of tools/ methods used to calculate social value tools locally and any further thoughts on calculating social value with Malcolm, who will further develop the discussion paper.

7.  Any Other Business

7.1 There was no any other business.

8. Date of Next Meeting

8.1 The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 23 March 2021. Discussion items will include Appeals, Annual Reporting and ALEOs/Designation.  

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