Neglected Land

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 4 October 2023.

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Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government how it is helping to provide capacity for community groups to buy any neglected land in their local communities. (S6O-02588)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting community ownership across Scotland through our Scottish land fund and our asset transfer and community right-to-buy policies.

The community right to buy abandoned, neglected or detrimental land came into force in 2018. It gives community bodies the right to compulsorily purchase land that is wholly or mainly abandoned or neglected or that is causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community. Through the Scottish land fund, community groups can access grants of up to £1 million—or, in exceptional circumstances, potentially more than that—to help them to take ownership of land and buildings.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that capacity building in areas of multiple deprivation is a key component of the land reform agenda?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The member raises an important point. I reiterate what I said in my initial response. Community ownership is a vital component of our land reform programme as it presents huge opportunities for communities in deprived areas to acquire land and buildings. We are well aware of the transformational impact that improving derelict and vacant land in deprived communities can have, and that there can be economic, social and environmental benefits for the people who live there. It is vital not only that such projects put communities at the heart of their activities but that communities are empowered to take on the ownership and management of such projects and spaces.

On the point about capacity building, we provide support to community groups in a variety of ways. Advice and guidance are available from Community Land Scotland, the community ownership support service and the Development Trusts Association Scotland. They work with community groups on a range of support and capacity-building activities, some of which are supported by grants from the Scottish Government.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

Only two communities have applied for the right to buy neglected land since 2018, and both were unsuccessful. Proving that land has been neglected is very difficult. Communities are being blocked by overly bureaucratic processes, so what changes will the Scottish Government make to the right to buy in its upcoming land reform bill?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The member raises an important point. In fact, three such applications have been made. One of the transfers eventually took place through a negotiated sale, but the other two were not successful because improvement work was done on the land by the person who owned it.

A few weeks ago, when I gave evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, we discussed that exact issue. I am more than happy to look at the potential barriers that are in the way, and at what we can do to resolve some of the challenges that communities can find themselves coming up against when they try to take ownership of vacant or derelict land.