Since we introduced the 2015 act
, we have taken many positive steps to increase community engagement. We have introduced participation requests and asset transfers, which provide a powerful mechanism for enabling communities to participate in public decision making and to take control of public land and buildings. Our investing in communities fund, which was launched in 2019-20 and is backed by about £11.5 million each year over three years, enables communities to decide on their terms how to address local challenges. Our national support programme for participatory budgeting has enabled over 122,000 voters to have a direct say on the allocation of millions of pounds. In addition, we are working in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, through the local governance review, to help to further empower communities and strengthen local democracy.
I thank the cabinet secretary for her response. As this is her final appearance in the chamber, I wish her well.
The Covid pandemic has brought communities together as never before, as has been seen in the work of Broughton Village Store, Tweed Togs, the Bridge in Galashiels, Tweeddale Youth Action, Penicuik Ambassadors, Gorebridge Resilience and many others—I do not want to try your patience, Presiding Officer. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that is community empowerment and something on which the legislation allows communities to build?
I absolutely agree with all that Christine Grahame has said, and I thank her for her kind words. I am very familiar with some of the groups that she mentioned—particularly the Broughton shop, which is just over the hill from me, in Biggar. It has done a phenomenal amount of work.
If it had not been for our communities, the country would simply not have been able to demonstrate the resilience that it has demonstrated over the past year. We need to take that learning and make sure that we do not lose it, because, if we trust and support our communities, Scotland will succeed and we will meet all our aspirations in our national performance framework. I pay tribute to all the work that Christine Grahame’s constituents have done over the past year. I sincerely thank them, because, without them, we would not be where we are.