The duties and powers that have been omitted from the current draft of the bill include the duty to provide access to allotments, which was not restated in the bill because it is already provided for under the general law of landlord and tenant, and the use of local authority rooms for discussions about allotment-related business. The latter came about after consultation with local authorities, which indicated that buildings could be made available for that purpose but that there should be a requirement to pay, as is the case with other community groups.
The power of entry on to unoccupied land for the purpose of providing allotments and the power of compulsory purchase of land have also been removed. The first power, which was introduced to drive an increase in food production, reflected the post-war era in which it was drafted, and it is viewed as being unnecessary at present. Local authorities have indicated that they are unaware of any situation in which these powers have been used to provide allotments, and they consider that using them would be a last resort because of the financial costs involved. The Scottish Government views the powers as being draconian and rather difficult to justify because of the costs. Additionally, such actions would deprive a person of their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property and could not be justified in the wider public interest on the basis of the provision of allotments.
The power for a local authority to charge a fair rent has also been removed because the Government believes that land values and the costs of managing allotment sites are likely to vary between sites depending on where they are in Scotland and that, consequently, decisions on rents are best made at local level. Indeed, the bill requires local authorities to make regulations that specifically relate to rent.
The power for a local authority to purchase plants, seeds and fertilisers to sell to tenants has also been removed. It was a rather outdated duty, which reflected the post-war era in which it was drafted. It came into force when there were not very many garden centres or agricultural suppliers around. It has been excluded from the bill, but that does not prevent local authorities from continuing that practice if they so wish and if there is a need for it.
The next power that has been removed is on the improvement and adaptation of land for allotments. It was considered unnecessary to restate that as it is part of a local authority’s general powers under subsequent legislation. On the rating of allotments, the power allows a local authority to deem itself the occupier of land despite it being let for allotments. It was considered unnecessary to restate that provision, as subsequent legislation has excluded allotments from the ratings regime. The provisions relating to land leased for allotments have been updated and are reflected in the bill.
The provisions in the bill that relate specifically to private landowners, which ultimately deal with the termination of leases and compensation, have also been removed from the bill. The rationale behind that—bear with me while I refer to my notes—was that the Government believes that those arrangements are better dealt with under individual lease arrangements. It was difficult to see what justification there was for interfering with such private arrangements. In addition, general law on landlords and tenants would apply to those arrangements.
To support private landowners with lease negotiations, in 2013 the Government supported the production of a guide for landowners, which was developed in liaison with the community land advisory service. That guide, which applies to both private and public landowners, encourages landowners to make sites available for growing food. It provides comprehensive information and makes suggestions about background details to try to equip landowners to play their part in making more land available to local communities in Scotland for growing food. I am happy to provide the detail of that to the committee if you would find it helpful.