Community Assets

Routes to ownership

There are various paths community groups can follow to secure ownership of land or buildings for the benefit of the community, from direct negotiation with the landowner or bidding on the open market, to use of formal schemes and land reform legislation. An overview of a range of these processes is given in the following paragraphs, and diagrams relating to the main processes are available under 'Related Documents' on the left hand side of this page.  The circumstances and opportunities can be very different from one community to another, so an early discussion with an advisor will provide further detail and support particular to each project. 

Negotiated sales

Many community purchases of land and/or buildings take place outwith formal schemes or legislation, through approaching the landowner to discuss a potential sale.  Where the landowner is a willing seller a negotiated sale or transfer to the community can take place at a timescale suitable for both parties.  Each case is different, but many of the stages involved in the formal schemes (such as demonstrating community support and developing a business plan) are still necessary or desirable in showing the community, directors of the community group and potential funders that the project is viable and locally controlled.  A potentially useful measure that can be considered is the use of an option agreement between the owner and the community group, giving the group first option to buy at an agreed price for a stipulated length of time. See our Negotiated Sales route map.

A Protocol for Negotiated Sales has been developed by Community Land Scotland working in partnership with Scottish Land & Estates. The development of the Protocol comes on the back of a two year legislative programme which has provided a range of additional rights for communities who may wish to purchase land. It is however recognised that taking the legislative route can be more onerous, for both landowners and communities, than reaching a sale via negotiation and the Protocol is designed to facilitate more negotiated sales.

There are various components to the Protocol, including flowcharts, a summary of community rights in law and case studies, but together they set out recommended processes for both landowner initiated and community initiated negotiated sales of land. The Protocol can be accessed via both Community Land Scotland and Scottish Land and Estate websites.

Bidding on the open market

As with any potential property buyer, communities have the option to bid on the open market for a property that is advertised for sale.  Timescales in this scenario can be uncertain as a closing date can be set at any time.  Noting an interest with the selling solicitor will ensure that the group is informed of any closing date set. A conditional offer can be made subject to the community being able to raise the necessary funds within a stated period. An unconditional offer shouldn’t be made unless the funds are available.

Public asset transfer 

Many public bodies, including local authorities, have an asset transfer policy which provides a process for transferring ownership of publicly owned land and buildings to a local community group.  Practice varies widely; an initial approach to the relevant public body regarding their overall process or a particular asset will indicate what their basic requirements and expected timelines are.  Support is available through the Community Ownership Support Service, run by the Development Trusts Association Scotland, to help groups and public bodies through the transfer process.  See the Asset Transfer route map.

Scotland's National Forest Estate

Forest Enterprise Scotland have published draft guidelines for their Community Asset Transfer Scheme, replacing the National Forest Land Scheme. The guidance will be finalised for the launch of the new scheme in January 2017.

Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

Further information on these provisions, and the recent amendments through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, can be obtained from the Scottish Government Community Land Team.

  • Community Right to Buy
  • This legislation allows a community to register an interest in a particular building or area of land in their locality, so that if and when this land comes up for sale the community group would have the first right of refusal.  To register a community interest in land under the Community Right to Buy, a community body must be formed. This has to be a company limited by guarantee, a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation or a Community Benefit Society. Templates prepared specifically to comply with the legislation can be accessed from the Scottish Government website. The governing documents should comply with appropriate details such as the organisation having no fewer than 10 members, with at least 75% of members resident within the local community.  The application to register an interest must also describe how the whole community would benefit from ownership of the land.  See the Community Right to Buy route map.
  • Once a registration is accepted the land can't be sold to any other party and, should the owner decide to sell, the community has 8 months to demonstrate community support and raise the funds needed for purchase.  The registered interest is valid for 5 years and the community can re-apply towards the end of that time.
  • Crofting Community Right to Buy
  • Under the Act communities in crofting areas have the right to acquire the croft land where they live.  In contrast to the Community Right to Buy process, this does not require that the owner has put the land up for sale.  See the Crofting Community Right to Buy route map.
  • A crofting community body must be formed before an application can be made.  This must be a company limited by guarantee with no fewer than 20 members.  The majority of members must be resident within the crofting community.  The application will be required to show how the proposed purchase will be in the public interest and contribute to the sustainable development of the area.

Transfer of Crofting Estates (Scotland) Act 1997

This legislation enables the transfer of crofting estates owned by Scottish Ministers to an approved body, and can also include mineral, sporting or other rights associated with the land.  Suitable groups must be representative of the crofting community and should be able to demonstrate that their plans on taking ownership would be for the benefit of residents on the estate.

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