5 Publishing the Common Good register
5.1 The draft guidance recommends that Local authorities should aim to publish the first version of their Common Good register as soon as practicable after the initial consultation period has closed, and certainly within six months of the end of the consultation, noting any cases that are still under investigation due to their complexity Question 6 asked for views on this timescale; Question 7 asked for views on publishing even when some cases are unresolved.
5.2 The draft guidance also sets out that the register should be reviewed on a regular basis, suggested to be annually, to capture changes that take place with assets either coming onto the register or being disposed of. Question 8 asked for views on a review process.
Question 6: What are your views on the timescale for publishing the Common Good register?
5.3 A majority (26) responded that the timescale for publication after consultation was about right; seven thought it should be shorter and six felt it should be longer.
5.4 Amongst those that considered the timescale to be about right, there was a suggestion that a separate register is published for those assets still under investigation. Museums Galleries Scotland ( MGS) raised the point that quality of consultation was more important than absolute timescales.
5.5 For those that suggested it should be longer, there was concern around the resources available to complete the register within the current timescales, with the experience of one local authority suggesting that 12 to 18 months would be more realistic. Another suggestion was to publish at the end of the 24 week period with a final publication date of nine months. It was mentioned that the deadline should start from the date that representations are received rather than when the consultation ends and there should be recognition in the guidance that assets requiring investigation will be dealt with as and when resources are available.
5.6 Those who felt the timescale should be shorter, explained that local authorities should already have Common Good lists. The bulk of the work has already been done in compiling the list, hence six months is too long and communities need answers quickly to help with planning their actions. A key concern appeared to be about transparency and having access to the information at all stages, from draft list, representations, disputed items to a final agreed register. In addition, a respondent highlighted that the register is not a fixed document and that it is more important that it is kept up to date, therefore, it should be published at the earliest point possible to allow others to consult it.
5.7 More than one respondent, coming from differing viewpoints on timescales, raised the issue that ideally the register should be as complete as possible before it is published for the sake of clarity, with concern around the potential number of notes on the register about ongoing investigations.
Question 7: Do you agree or disagree with the proposals to publish the register even when some items on it are not yet confirmed?
Please give reasons for your answer.
5.8 The vast majority (38) agreed with the proposal to publish the register even when some items are not yet confirmed. The main sentiment was that it was better to have partial information in the public domain at the earliest possible time, rather than no information at all. Other thoughts included:
- A desire to stop local authorities from unnecessarily holding up publication due to complex cases. The nature of Common Good property could mean a completed register never gets published unless there is an allowance to include items still to be confirmed.
- Promotes transparency
- It allows for communities and citizens to contribute information that may help complete the register
- It is a living document
“Better to state that some items are still being investigated and provide information about the rest, than to provide no information about any.” (Individual)
5.9 Further comments included that additional assets should be added as and when identified. Items to be confirmed should be listed separately and there should be more in the guidance to indicate that investigations will be completed as resources allow.
5.10 For the two that did not agree, they were keen that enough time was given in the first instance to ensure as complete a register as possible and to provide the certainty needed for communities who may be interested in entries on the register. Also, it was felt that to even be considered for the register there must be some grounds for the decision.
Question 8: What are your views on reviewing the Common Good register annually?
5.11 Most respondents (25) agreed with an annual review, seven thought it should be longer and five thought it should be shorter.
5.12 Amongst those who agreed it should be annual, there were still suggestions that the register should/would be updated as and when new items are identified or sold, indicating the desire/expectation amongst some of a more ongoing process. There was also the issue of those items to be confirmed, where one respondent felt these should be updated according to a shorter timescale. Also, local authorities should be allowed the flexibility to set a review date that aligned with its own reporting timescales.
5.13 Additionally, the opinion was expressed that more regular reviews should take place, particularly in the early stages of establishing a register to avoid a tick box exercise and enable meaningful engagement with communities.
5.14 For those advocating that the review period should be longer, the recommendation ranged from two to three years but with the proviso that the register is a living document and should be updated as changes occur. It was felt that, due to the historic nature of the register, there would be limited changes such that annual was excessive. A concern was also expressed that an annual review could potentially place excessive burden on Councils.
5.15 For those suggesting a shorter timescale, they essentially made the same argument as those that agreed with the annual review timescale, that the register should be a live document, updated as changes occurred.