This section will look at all the nuts and bolts of making an asset transfer request to a public body or 'relevant authority', as they are called in the Community Empowerment Act. Remember, this section goes hand-in-hand with the Developing your Project section.
It is helpful to have a bit of background, before we launch into the details of making an asset transfer request. After all, communities have owned assets in Scotland for years - so what makes things different now?
The drive for community empowerment, and the way that owning assets can contribute to that, has been faciliated by various bits of legislation over the last 20 years. But it was the enacting in 2017 of Part 5: Asset Transfer of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 which has enabled asset transfer to become a much more attainable option.
What is classed as an 'asset'? A request can be made in relation to any land which is owned or leased by the relevant authority. In law, "land" includes buildings and any other structure on the land, such as a bridge, wall or pier.
- changes the balance of power between communities and the public sector
- introduces many more rights for community bodies
- strengthens their voices in the decisions that matter to them
- encourages partnership working between service providers and communities, cementing the focus on achieving outomes and tackling inequalities
- enables communities to make requests not just to local authorities, but to a wide-ranging list of public bodies (called 'relevant authorities' in the Act), for any land or buildings they feel they could use in a better way to deliver services and benefits.
This gives eligible community bodies a right to request to buy, lease, manage or use land and buildings belonging to local authorities, Scottish public bodies or Scottish Ministers.
This applies to ALL assets owned by relevant authorities, listed in Schedule 3 of the Act, not only those assets deemed surplus.
Relevant authorities are required to publish a register of the land they own or lease, to help communities identify suitable property.
The community body must set out what it plans to do with the land and what benefits it will bring.
The authority must consider, amongst other things, whether the proposals will improve economic development, regeneration, health, or social or environmental wellbeing, or reduce inequalities.
The benefits of the community body’s proposals must be compared to the benefits of any other proposals, including continuing the current use or sale on the open market.
The presumption is in favour of the community proposal, unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal.
It is a very good idea to download the Scottish Government Guidance for Asset Transfer under the Community Empowerment Act (see below in Related Resources) as this talks you through the process of asset transfer every step of the way. This is in two parts, one for relevant authorities and one for community groups. Although the guidance is very similar, each focuses on the points where each party has to take action.
There are also example forms and letters provided as part of the legislative process. Flow charts are used in the guidance notes to help understanding of the process and to assist relevant authorities in introducing Asset Transfer policies.
You might already have an asset in mind but you can look at the Register of Assets which should have been produced by each relevant authority to see what else might be available.
We have a wealth of resources in our Resources page. See some of these are listed below in the Related Resources section.