Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th June 2007.
To ask the Scottish Executive what support is available to volunteer groups working for the development of new parks in existing green spaces. (S3O-120)
The provision and maintenance of parks are primarily the responsibility of local authorities, and rightly so. It is for local authorities, their community planning partners and any other owners or providers of green spaces to decide whether new parks should be created in their areas, whether volunteers should be invited to participate in the process and, if so, what financial or other support they should receive.
The Scottish Government provides a range of grants for the voluntary sector in general and they are listed on the Executive's website. BTCV Scotland's community local action network system, which is supported by the Government, provides advice on the grants, awards and support services that are available more widely to help voluntary groups to carry out conservation projects. Those would probably apply.
I welcome the minister back to the Parliament and congratulate him on his new post.
I advise the minister that the previous Scottish Executive granted some £200,000 to Cumbernauld community park in an effort to redevelop the area. The minister might become aware of the excellent work that is done by volunteers in support of Cumbernauld glen and Cumbernauld house park. Those groups are backed by North Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. As well as maintaining and improving the environment of the parks, the groups are keen to see the development of Cumbernauld house, which was formerly owned by the Cumbernauld Development Corporation.
How might the Scottish Executive be able to support the community in taking Cumbernauld house, which is an Adam building, back into public ownership?
I thank Cathie Craigie for her good wishes.
I must not stray into the built environment but must instead comment only on the natural environment. Environmental volunteering and the good work that is taking place both in Cumbernauld and by groups such as the Friends of Kelvin Valley Park will be supported—and are being supported—by the schemes that I mentioned. In addition, an implementation group has been considering ways in which the Government can further assist the environmental volunteering sector. We expect to receive a report from the group shortly and I am sure that we will have good news on that.
On a slightly more detailed point, how will the new Government support volunteer groups and communities in their efforts to stop asset stripping by local authorities and other organisations at sites that were previously set aside for the development of new parks? The example that Cathie Craigie cited—Cumbernauld community park—is a good one in that regard. In 1993, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Council set aside land for the park, but since North Lanarkshire Council took over, no progress has been made. Indeed, much of the land has been sold off.
What assistance can the minister give the Friends of Cumbernauld Community Park and other organisations throughout Scotland to protect their parks and prevent them from being sold off bit by bit?
Green spaces of all types are extremely important, both for the well-being of every member of society and indeed for the well-being of the Government, because green spaces
On the specific example of Cumbernauld, all responsible local authorities want to make sure that the green spaces that they have—and their potential—are taken forward in a way that achieves the aim of a healthier and greener society. We will do all that we can to encourage local authorities in general and, I am sure, North Lanarkshire Council in particular.