Background and Evidence
Image: By Blaeu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Common good property has its origins in the Middle Ages where local communities used areas of land/assets for communal purposes. Over time it became part of the Scottish burghs where it was administered on behalf of local inhabitants. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (1973 Act) brought an end to the burghs by abolishing the town councils responsible for the burghs. The town councils’ common good assets were, however, transferred to the new district or islands councils and then, in 1996, to the current unitary local authorities (Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994).
Common good property can therefore be seen as a special form of property with a public purpose, where title is held by a local authority for the ‘common good’ of the people of the area in question. Burghs would have received it as a gift or purchased it and it has been passed down through local government reorganisation. Common good property can include land, buildings, moveable items such as art, and cash funds. It is, however, limited to assets held by the burghs at the time of their abolition. No new common good property can be created.
In session 4 of the Parliament, the legal framework surrounding common good was amended by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (2015 Act) which introduced duties on local authorities to:
- Establish registers of common good property (section 102)
- Consult with community councils and certain community bodies when proposing to dispose of or change the use of common good property (section 104)
Local authorities must have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers when carrying out these duties (sections 103 and 105).
The duties in sections 102 and 104 of the 2015 Act have yet to come into force. It is envisaged that they will be brought into force once the final version of the guidance mentioned is published (the plan is to publish draft guidance for consultation after the local government elections in 2017.
Call for Views
On Wednesday 8 February 2017, the Local Government and Communities Committee launched a call for written evidence from all interested parties as part of its scrutiny of common good property and funds.
Organisations and individuals were invited to submit written evidence to the Committee setting out their views on common good property and funds. For further details on the Committee's call for written evidence, please see the link below.
Read the call for evidence.
Read the written submissions received.
Wednesday 20 December 2017
The Committee took evidence from the following:
- Craig Veitch, Aberdeen City Council;
- Andrew Ferguson, Fife Council and the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland;
- Dr Lindsay Neil, Former Chair, Selkirk and District Community Council;
- Paul Nevin.
Link to Papers for meeting on 20 December 2017
Link to Official Report of meeting on 20 December 2017
The following items of correspondence were received in relation to the meeting of Wednesday 20 December 2017:
Following the meeting on 20 December 2017, the Committee considered and noted the evidence heard and agreed to write to the Scottish Law Commission:
The Scottish Law Commission responded to the Convener's letter on 13 February 2018: