Overview of Evidence on Land Reform in Scotland

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the evidence available on the implementation and progress of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to date, and to highlight some of the key issues that may be worth considering in its forthcoming review.

6. Growing Community Assets

6.1 The Growing Community Assets fund (GCA) replaced the SLF, which closed in 2006. Its 2006 to 2010 programme provided grants which totalled £50 million for both rural and urban communities and aimed to help communities purchase land and assets, to develop enough social capital (skills, knowledge, contacts and confidence) to maximise the impact of their purchase, and ultimately help communities have more control and influence over their future development (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010). One of the main differences between the SLF and GCA is that the latter extended the asset-based community development approach from rural to also include urban communities. The overall aims of GCA are very similar to SLF and include ensuring the community has a say in how an asset is managed, allowing for sustainable development, and ensuring the preservation / development of an asset / service (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010).

GCA was then re-launched, as part of the Investing in Communities Programme, in June 2010 and will run until June 2015, with approximately £50-60 million to invest. The current programme has four main aims for communities. These are for:

  • Communities to work together to own and develop local assets;
  • Communities to be sustainable, and to improve their economic, environmental and social future through the ownership and development of local assets;
  • Communities to develop skills and knowledge through the ownership and development of local assets; and
  • Communities to overcome disadvantage and inequality through the ownership and development of local assets.

6.2 The Big Lottery has indicated that it wants to ensure it invests in projects that deliver the strongest outcomes for GCA. It has emphasised that it prefers, where possible, to invest less of its funding on the purchase of publically owned assets and more on their future re-development once an asset is under community ownership. However, this does not preclude the acquisition of land by communities. It provides for three types of funding: for technical assistance, for asset acquisition, and for asset development. The programme is delivered in-house by the Lottery programme teams, rather than externally as in the earlier programme (SQW, 2011).

Uptake of GCA 2006-10

6.3 The ongoing evaluation found that 127 investments had been made by GCA between 2006 and 2010. The number of awards rose from 10 projects and £4.1 million in 2006 to 29 projects and £13.4 million in 2010. The average size of an investment grew slightly over the five years to £460,000 in the most recent years.

6.4 Almost half of the projects (62) and half the funding, have been used to support community facilities. There have been 19 energy projects, many of these community wind turbine investments, and 19 social enterprise-based projects. There were five cases where funding was awarded, but later withdrawn. Of the 127 investments, 36 were (by 2010) starting to generate some outputs, with another 29 under construction and likely to be complete within 12 months, and a further 16 in planning (SQW, 2011).

6.5 In terms of location, there are fewer projects in the north east of Scotland, and more along the west coast. Compared with the earlier stages of the GCA, and the SLF before it, there are far more projects in and around the central belt (SQW, 2011). The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation indicates that of the 74 projects funded in the first year, 55% were in areas below the Scottish average in terms of deprivation (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010).


6.6 The ongoing evaluation of the GCA programme has noted difficulties in monitoring and evaluating progress to date, given the diversity of the projects involved (it has funded a very wide range of projects, in communities that are so different from each other), and given that many projects have not yet produced any outputs or outcomes. Part of the challenge has therefore been to understand what should be monitored and measured, and in deciding what success indicators should be used. Work will increasingly focus on capturing more data on both the number of users of projects and the ways in which the project affects them (SQW, 2011).

6.7 Despite these difficulties, the evidence suggests that GCA has had a number of positive impacts. These include (SQW, 2011):

  • Giving communities a greater say in how their services / assets are run;
  • Facilitating long-term streams of income from community assets;
  • Generating local jobs and businesses; facilitating the sharing of skills, knowledge and confidence amongst community members;
  • Engendering greater social inclusion; positively impacting on the local and / or global environment;
  • Providing services and amenities that were not present before and/or that are more accessible than those previously on offer.

6.8 The evidence also highlights a number of success factors which are thought to enhance the possibility of these positive impacts being realised, and minimise the chance of GCA having a negative effect on a community or their asset. These include:

  • Having breadth and depth of capacity and experience within the leadership board, including a balance between community management, financial expertise and technical knowledge. Many project managers and boards will be faced with changes in their roles as the emphasis moves from getting the project up and running to developing and using the asset;
  • Having a clear vision, realistic objectives and identified actions, to help manage community expectations and reduce the possibility of friction once the projects have started; and
  • Having effective management structures in place, with clear and transparent rules.

6.9 The evidence suggests several ways in which GCA could be made more effective:

  • GCA processes: many projects experience long delays before they hear whether their application has been successful, resulting in concerns that match funding may be lost (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010). The GCA approvals process is considered to be significantly more elongated than in other funding streams (SQW, 2009). There are also legal hurdles in establishing trading arms (for the sale of electricity, for example) and dealing with the receipt of income (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010).
  • Engagement: the Phase 1 Evaluation highlights that some projects faced resistance from local residents. It recommends that projects should reduce the dependency on a few key individuals by inviting a wide range of community members to become involved with the group leading the project, and actively encourage younger members of the community and a mix of 'established' and 'incomer' residents to be part of the group.
  • The use of income generated: the Phase 2 Evaluation highlighted the challenge of deciding how to use the income generated by community assets to support further community development (SQW, 2011).
  • Succession planning: the Phase 2 Evaluation highlighted the need for more attention to be paid to succession planning, in order for the asset to have long-term benefits and permanency, and to ensure the maintenance of skills, knowledge and experience over time (SQW, 2011). In particular, it predicted that funding may become more scarce over the coming years, with that from public sector sources being tightened, and that raised through the renting of space likely to be heavily reduced in the current economic climate.

6.10 SQW also questioned the uniqueness of GCA, highlighting the unclear distinctions between its characteristics and those of other funding programmes. For example, they found that GCA had similar outcomes to BIG's Transforming Your Space (TYS) programme, which also supported village hall projects and access to land. However, they did find the level of additionality in GCA to be reasonably high, with one third of respondents reporting that the project 'would not have taken place at all' in the absence of GCA funding (SQW, 2009).

6.11 Evidence has identified differences in how GCA is used in urban and rural communities. In particular, it found that only a small proportion of projects are being delivered in densely populated urban areas. This suggests that this may be because urban communities are less easy to define, and / or because weaker social networks within urban areas make it more difficult to identify key development opportunities (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010). However it also found that, when projects do take place in urban areas, they tend to engage more people than rural projects, although not as great a proportion of their respective communities (SQW, 2011). In addition, such projects were more likely to be led by experienced (semi-professional) social enterprises that are not necessarily rooted in their respective communities, but were using GCA to roll out a model previously trialled elsewhere. SQW suggests that this may be because the Fund and its delivery partners working in urban areas are more likely to support proposals from 'professional' organisations in order to achieve quick wins, or because the demand from grass-roots communities in urban areas simply does not exist (Big Lottery Fund Research, 2010).

6.12 The Phase 1 evaluation also highlights regional differences relating to how much support local authorities give GCA projects. Their findings show that local authorities have tended to be supportive of, but not heavily involved in small initiatives (e.g. village halls), and that they tended to take a much more active interest in larger-scale land buy-outs which are in line with local authority aims of regenerating local economies and reviving declining populations.

6.13 Importantly, the ongoing evaluation of GCA highlights the need to treat asset ownership as just one of a number of possible options (including leasing) that can contribute to community development (SQW, 2011). Indeed, case studies highlight that some projects specifically chose not to purchase their asset: some only went down this route because they had to act at short notice and no alternative was available. There is therefore a possibility that communities may be able to reach a greater level of empowerment without purchasing land or assets (SQW, 2009). From their survey, SQW identified the following pros and cons of asset ownership:

Table 6.2 SQW's pros and cons of asset ownership



Increases the range of funding options, improving

sustainable development.

Increased and continuing responsibility for management, finance and maintenance.

The community can determine the direction the project takes/ it is led by local needs.

General time and effort involved, particularly in relation to dealing with the paperwork (mainly relating to fundraising).

Local support/buy-in for the venture.

It requires long-term interest and commitment from the community.

Any income generated is reinvested for the benefit of the community.

It can take a long-time to convince everybody of the validity, capacity and staying power of your project.

Gives the community a real focus. It can help create a sense of identity and belonging.

Self-governance can be difficult when making decisions that affect either yourself or someone close to you


Enables the asset to be saved/ developed in a way that generates additional benefits for the local area.

It can lead to divisions within the community - it is inevitable that some individuals will oppose the decision reached.

Increases the capacity of project members.

Capacity issues - A lack of recognition that community groups are often run by volunteers, not full-time paid employees. Community groups do not always have the expertise that may be required.

Increases self-belief within the community.

It can be difficult to avoid the bulk of the work resting on too few shoulders and the risk of these individuals losing enthusiasm.

Source: SQW, 2009


Email: Angela Morgan

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