MSP WELCOMES PASSAGE OF THE COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT (SCOTLAND) BILL WITH “CASTLE TOWARD” AMENDMENTS

“NO LONGER WILL LOCAL AUTHORITIES BE ABLE TO RIDE ROUGHSHOD OVER THE WISHES OF COMMUNITIES.” – MICHAEL RUSSELL

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has today (Wednesday 17th June) welcomed the passage of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.

The legislation seeks to extend community ownership of land by allowing communities to buy abandoned or derelict land, as well as extending the Community Right to Buy in rural areas.

The legislation also contains new provisions for community groups to appeal to Scottish Ministers if a local authority refuses to sell an asset to the community. These provisions will ensure that local authorities must engage constructively with community groups who wish to purchase assets covered by local authority asset transfer regulations.

These provisions resulted from amendments to the legislation, lodged at Stage 2 by Mr Russell, in response to Argyll and Bute Council’s handling of the sale of Castle Toward, in which the Council blocked a credible bid from the South Cowal Community Development Company, backed by the Scottish Land Fund, to purchase Castle Toward.

Commenting on the passage of the Bill, Mr Russell said:

“I congratulate the Scottish Parliament for passing this important piece of legislation. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill will significantly enhance the ability of community groups to purchase derelict or neglected land, thus enabling grassroots community projects and social enterprises to flourish and develop.

“I am particularly pleased that my amendments, accepted at Stage 2, will now become law, enabling communities to appeal to Ministers in cases where the local authority refuses an asset transfer request. Argyll and Bute Council’s actions during the sale of Castle Toward demonstrates why such amendments are needed; the Council obstructed the offer made by the South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC) to purchase Castle Toward for £850,000, despite the offer being consistent with the existing commercial valuation for the Castle.

“This legislation will prevent a repeat of the Castle Toward situation. No longer will local authorities be able to ride roughshod over communities and obstruct sensible bids for the purchasing of assets which are surplus to local authority requirements. I will continue to pressurise Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider and accept the community’s bid to purchase Castle Toward.”

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