2.1 One million acre target
The Scottish Government has a target of there being one million acres of land in community ownership in Scotland by 2020. The target of one million acres of land being in community ownership was set with the intention that it would focus minds to spread the benefits experienced by communities already owning land much more widely.
The Scottish Government acknowledge that it is an ambitious target, but see it as not only important in its own terms, but as a driver to step up and encourage a greater appetite for and interest in community ownership and remain committed to maintaining this momentum to increase the area of land in community ownership.
There is an increased focus on land reform as a result of a number of approaches that are being implemented. The Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015, and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 both take steps to widen the opportunities for communities to take on ownership of assets, whilst simplifying the process. The Scottish Land Fund and the Empowering Communities Fund both provide opportunities for communities purchasing land parcels/assets to access funding.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 frames ownership or control of land or buildings as the key element within effective community-led regeneration or development. Not only can community ownership help to safeguard or enhance local facilities, it is also seen as a means to generate income for community activity, increase community confidence and cohesion, enable communities to have more control over their futures, and support economic regeneration and sustainable development of the community.
2.2 Definition of community ownership
In relation to measuring progress towards the one million acre target the following definition was agreed upon:
- 'Community' is defined on a geographical basis, which can be defined by postcode units and/or a prescribed area. This definition of 'community' has been chosen to reflect the importance of place, reflected within current Scottish Government policy and current legislation as well as the implicit objectives of the one million acre target.
- A relevant 'community body' is required to have a number of
essential characteristics, which collectively ensure that
community owned assets are used for the benefit of the wider
community rather than one particular interest group. The
community body should:
- Have a clear definition of the geographical community to which the body relates;
- A membership which is open to any member of that community;
- Be locally-led and controlled;
- Have as its main purpose the furthering of sustainable development in the local area;
- Be non-profit distributing; and
- Have evidence to demonstrate a sufficient level of support/community buy-in.
- Ownership is defined in the legal sense: A legal title coupled with exclusive legal right to possession. While it is acknowledged that communities can and do lease ( i.e. from the Forestry Commission Scotland), manage and jointly own ( i.e. Equity stake) assets, it was agreed that for the purposes of the target the definition should be restricted to outright ownership.
2.3 Experimental statistics
Experimental statistics are Official Statistics that are undergoing development. They are defined in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as: 'new Official Statistics undergoing evaluation that are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development as a means to build in quality at an early stage'.
Principle 4, Practice 5 of the Code instructs producers to release experimental statistics to achieve continuous improvement in statistical processes; Protocol 1, Practice 5 states that producers should 'involve users in the evaluation of experimental statistics'. There is an emphasis across the Government Statistical Service to consult users during the review of statistics, and to make experimental series available during this period to assist in the quality assurance, development and familiarisation of the statistics.
The Code of Practice for Official Statistics promotes and supports the release of experimental statistics to involve users in their development at an early stage; however, it is likely that the statistics will not be fully compliant in all areas due to their nature as 'data being developed'.
The Scottish Government releases experimental statistics to engage with users and understand their needs as part of compliance with Principle 1 of the Code. The statistics may also be released to help develop methods and improvements in quality under Principle 4 of the Code, and it is important that these developments are fully discussed alongside the statistics. The statistics should always be supported by appropriate guidance and commentary to inform users about their strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to use under Principle 8 of the Code (Frankness and Accessibility).
The reason for these statistics being classed as experimental statistics is because they are based on a new and developing data source. As such time is required:
- To receive informed feedback from users and potential users of the statistics; and
- To improve the quality of the underlying data.
As such the Scottish Government would welcome feedback on the publication. Please provide any feedback to the following email address: CommunityLandStatistics@gov.scot