31 Jul 2020
A Scottish Government policy aimed at giving community groups more control of the buildings and land in their neighbourhood has led to enhanced services, community spirit and recreational activities, a study by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has found.
Researchers from GCU's Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health were commissioned to evaluate the new Asset Transfer Requests policy - introduced by the Scottish Government in 2017 under Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act.
Under the Act, Asset Transfer Requests give community groups the right to request to buy, lease, or manage land or buildings from relevant authorities for improvement and development. It also enables communities to challenge the decisions of local authorities through an appeal process.
The idea is that control of land or buildings will allow communities to drive positive change by giving them a base for activities and services that would not otherwise be accessible.
GCU's Professor Artur Steiner, Dr Clementine Hill-O’Connor and Dr Carolyn McMillan undertook an 18-month evaluation to document the ways in which the legislation has been implemented by public authorities and used at a local level.
One successful example given in the study is that of Blantyre Soccer Academy, which used the legislation to acquire ownership of Rowans Community Hall in the town. The club has since renovated the building and it is now used for a whole host of community events.
The evaluation used a range of methods to gather data, including in-depth individual and group interviews with key stakeholders, participant observations and desk-based reviews.
However, while the study concluded that Asset Transfer Requests have successfully delivered greater community opportunities in Scotland, it made several recommendations, such as the need to promote their availability more widely, and visible advertising of a key point of contact should communities want to make a transfer request, especially in less advantaged areas.
Professor Steiner said: "The evaluation report provides new and useful evidence for the Scottish Government, showing that Asset Transfer Requests create an additional mechanism that helps to empower community groups to pursue their development plans.
"They support public sector reform through strengthening voices of local people in local decision making and by improving community planning and its outcomes. The new legislation doesn't replace existing asset transfer mechanisms, but what is unique about it is that it enables communities to challenge decisions of relevant authorities through an appeal process. That means that the legislation is not tokenistic but meaningful. Importantly, the report also shows what doesn't work in practice and provides recommendations on how to improve."
Pictured in the attached are GCU's Professor Artur Steiner (centre), Dr Clementine Hill-O’Connor (left) and Dr Carolyn McMillan (right).