SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Aileen McLeod said on Thursday the passage of the Community Empowerment Bill through its last stage of Parliamentary consideration on Wednesday night is good news for communities across Dumfries and Galloway.
The new Act will give communities more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas – this could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use.
The law will also mean local authorities and public bodies will have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities. Instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups can put forward their case for why a local facility would be better run by the community itself.
It will also give community groups the opportunity to be involved in discussions on service with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage while Ministers will also have powers to involve people and communities in funding decisions, such as participatory budgeting.
Aileen commented: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities. Our region benefits from strong and active communities which in many cases already take a lot of responsibility for their own community assets and services, and many wish to do more.
“By giving people more powers to take over land, buildings and services, communities that may have been excluded in the past, can identify the best ways to improve their area and take forward regeneration on their own terms.
“It will now be easier for buildings and land in both urban and rural areas that may have been underused to be transformed into community gardens and other needed facilities. We already have excellent examples of community-run projects in urban and very rural areas of this region, such as Summerhill Community Centre in Dumfries, or the Mull of Galloway Trust, which now owns and manages the most southerly point on the Scottish mainland.
“Both are successful and thriving community enterprises but it is vital that we make it easier for more communities to follow their lead. The Bill now means that communities have a framework to take action in areas that are important to them, take control of assets they know best how to use and have the right to participate in decisions which will affect them.
“When people have greater control of their own future, they are more engaged and better able to tackle barriers to making their communities wealthier and fairer. The passage of the Community Empowerment Bill is good news for communities, both urban and rural, right across Dumfries and Galloway.”