- The Scottish Land Fund is regarded highly, both by those who applied for funding and by those who work with and administer the fund,
- In total, 92% of applicants rated the overall process involved in the Scottish Land Fund as either good or very good,
- Individual aspects of the Fund were also rated highly, with 95% saying the advice they received was good or very good and 91% saying the same about the feedback they receive about their application. Ratings for transparency of the process were a little lower though still very positive at 83%.
- Applicants are broadly supportive of the application process, with ratings of advice received, feedback and time taken to process all rated as good or very good by at least 85%,
- The two-stage approach, introduced in 2016, is seen as an improvement on the previous process though some stakeholders believe it can lead to delays,
- The time it can take from initial inquiry to final acquisition can be lengthy, however this does not deter applicants and there are opportunities to fast-track projects as required,
- The eligibility criteria are viewed as being necessarily tough; however, some stakeholders would like clarity and a possible change in the locational criteria for urban applicants who are often groups of shared interest rather than geographic groups,
- Land Fund Advisors provide invaluable support to applicants to the fund, with 91% saying that they do a good or very good job,
- Around 7 in 10 successful applicants also rely on funding from other sources and some think that there could be more support provided in this regard,
- Applicants often do not understand why they have to deal with multiple agencies in making applications and some believe that this causes confusion and delay.
- Given the prevalence of relying on funds from other sources in addition to the Scottish Land Fund, there were some calls for the fund to be widened and wider advice given on accessing funds from different sources,
- The current rules on how funds are spent, in terms of what is permitted spending on capital and on revenue are sometimes unclear to applicants, some of whom would like further clarity,
- Some stakeholders want a review of the current budget arrangements for the Fund, which currently means that money unspent in one year cannot be carried forward.
The fund is highly valued and seen as a vital tool for community groups who wish to transform land and buildings in their local areas. However, the evaluation has also highlighted a range of feedback from applicants and stakeholders which are aimed at improving the administration and functioning of the fund. The recommendations are grouped below; within each grouping recommendations are set out in order of priority to groups and stakeholders :
- to consider adding and funding an additional stage, before stage 1, to help organisations make early decisions about the viability of their application,
- to provide more financial support to community groups to learn about governance and provide advice and guidance,
- do more to promote the fund, including updating promotional material and other literature, possibly including case studies,
- rework the forms used at stages 1 and 2 so that they are supported by OS Mac systems as well as MS Word,
- to provide more detailed written guidance on eligibility criteria to help inform organisations about whether to apply, ensuring that guidance is written in plain, accessible language,
- to consider changing the geographic criteria as current guidance is seen as a deterrent, particularly for urban-based community organisations, and could be changed to include 'communities of interest',
- to consider publishing a clear set of criteria for judging future applications, particularly in a period of increased demand for the SLF,
Finances and Funding
- concentrate any new money for stage 1 revenue funding to support applications,
- to consider reviewing and altering the current capital to revenue funding ratios which would benefit a number of organisations,
- to consider combining alternative sources of funding with the SLF, particularly in view of increased demand for SLF funds,
- to consider ways in which funds can be released more swiftly in cases where an application to buy a building may be lost at an auction.