Bill to boost green spaces

A new law could help thousands of people grow their own food in community growing spaces, Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi has said.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, currently in Parliament, will make it easier for communities to take over land for their own purposes, which could include growing healthy food or building a community garden.

This ties in with the Scottish Government’s wider commitment of giving people more control over the decisions that shape their communities.

As part of this, an extra £10 million will be available to support regeneration in Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas through the new Empowering Communities Fund, which builds on the existing People and Communities Fund (PCF).

Speaking on a visit to Shettleston Community Growing Project, Mr Biagi said: “The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill will make it easier for residents in both urban and rural areas to access land for community purposes.

“Community growing projects are worthwhile as they can bring together people from all backgrounds, age groups and abilities to work towards one common goal.

“I have seen first-hand the benefits of giving people the power to make decisions about their own area. It can increase their confidence, skills and knowledge and give them more experience when it comes to applying for jobs.

“The Growing Project is exactly the type of community based organisation that we want to see flourish throughout Scotland.

“Giving people the opportunity to grow their own food can help to address food poverty, encourage healthy eating and promote the use of local, seasonal produce.”

Julie Christie, the Treasurer of Shettleston Community Growing Project said: “Community empowerment gives you a shared sense of belonging to something. I’m not from Shettleston originally so as someone who wasn’t brought up here being involved in the growing project has helped me feel like I’m part of the community.

“If you just have one small piece of land where you’re growing fruit and vegetables, nobody is really going to listen to you, by working together we are much stronger.

Marion Bate, the project coordinator said: “Our project is much more than just a growing project, it’s a hub for community events, it’s a place where people come together to make new friends and it gives people who are not working a focus and reason to be motivated.

“It’s massively important that community decisions come from grass roots levels. If people are involved in the process and can have their say from day one about what they want to do, they take ownership of the project. That’s what’s happened here, it’s the volunteers that have applied for the funding, they are the ones who manage it and maintain it, and are now starting to develop other sites in the Shettleston and Tollcross area.”