The Community Empowerment Bill is now at the Committee stage where MSPs hear evidence from experts. In our case, the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Association is representing our cause.
Pressure is required so that MSPs understand that there is a real need to listen to what SAGS is saying. Your site representatives have been asked to persuade your local MSPs to be receptive to SAGS’ argument. It would be great if every member could add their voice to the chorus. We don’t want them to think they can ignore us. SAGS has condensed the essence of the case into 5 points. You can read or download the points by clicking here.
Part of the Community Empowerment Bill updates and replaces all of the existing allotment legislation on the statute books. In principle it is good news that the legislation surrounding allotments is getting updated and SAGS has been actively involved throughout the process to try and make sure your rights are protected. The Bill in its current form though does have a number of omissions that could have serious implications for allotment plot holders across Scotland.
In particular, the Bill as it stands does not stipulate how big an allotment plot should be, or include a clause about fair rent levels. We are already seeing local authorities halving plots as they become vacant in an attempt to reduce waiting lists on the cheap, and Edinburgh City Council is proposing a near trebling of rents (already among the highest in the country) to generate income to subsidise other council services. It may seem far fetched, but there is nothing in the bill as it stands, that would prevent a council in the future charging £100 a year for a 1 square metre raised bed and calling it an allotment.
Your help is needed. Please lobby your Constituency and your List MSPs to highlight the aspects of the Bill where amendments are required. We have written a longer document explaining the justifications for the five points which can be seen by clicking here. If you are emailing your MSP, please copy in or attach the 5 point proposition.
This matter is of the utmost urgency, as amendments will need to be tabled in the next few weeks if there is to be any hope of getting them into the Bill as it progresses through Parliament.