Helping Scots to 'grow their own'
Unused public land could soon be made available to meet increased demand for allotments, the Scottish Government announced today.
Waiting lists for allotments have risen dramatically in recent years, with more people recognising the environmental, social and health benefits to be gained from working a plot.
With current provision limited and almost three thousand people on waiting lists, the Scottish Government and other public bodies are to explore how surplus land could be made available to help more Scots 'grow their own'.
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Richard Lochhead said:
"In the current economic climate, with food prices on the increase, interest in growing our own food has never been higher.
"The issue was raised by many people during the recent discussion on our National Food and Drink Policy and it is absolutely right that the Scottish Government looks at ways of giving more Scots the opportunity to grow their own fresh, seasonal produce
"Fresh food isn't the only benefit to be had from tending an allotment of course. They encourage physical activity, offer a place for individuals to relax and are also valuable to the local community and environment.
"I am asking a number of public bodies to consider how the land they manage for the Scottish Government could be made available to local authorities to increase the number of allotments in Scotland."
A representative of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities welcomed the news, adding:
"Allotments have always been one of the best ecologic activities. They almost eliminate food miles and create a great place to compost and use organic matter. Growing your own crops provides a source of healthy and potentially organic food, and in addition to increasing healthy active lifestyles, it increases social interaction across the allotments and through the distribution of surplus. And very importantly it brings us back into contact with the value of nature and biodiversity.
"COSLA has been pleased to work with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society (SAGS) to produce guidance for Local Authorities on allotment provision and we are happy to see the Scottish Government taking an interest in promoting the provision of allotments. We look forward to working in partnership with the government to consider how best this can be achieved."
Mandy Fooks, President of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society said:
"SAGS is delighted at this announcement. We are currently in touch with over 35 new groups across Scotland, 20 of whom are seeking land.
"This facilitation will be warmly welcomed and will lead to many more allotment sites and many more individuals and local communities growing their own food."
There are over 200 allotment sites across Scotland, with around 70 per cent owned by local authorities. The overall number of plots amount to some 6,300 with 3,000 individuals on a waiting list. Waiting lists vary widely across Scotland, with almost two thirds in Aberdeen (300), Edinburgh (1000) and Glasgow (650). Four local authorities (East Dumbartonshire, Falkirk, Shetland and the Western Isles) do not currently have allotments, although provision of such sites is being explored. The Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society (SAGS) carried out a thorough study of allotment provision in Scotland, with support from SNH.
Local authorities have a duty to provide allotments if there is a proven need, however there are inevitable resource and prioritisation issues when a council is providing sites. This is set out in a number of statutes. The principle one is the Allotments (Scotland) Act 1892, as amended by the Land Settlement Scotland) Act 1919 and the Allotment (Scotland) Acts of 1922 and 1950. Allotment legislation in Scotland is different to that in England and does not give Ministers powers in relation to allotments and decisions of local authorities to close and dispose of sites in their ownership.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) plays a key role and has good practice guidance in place for local authorities on allotment provision (published 2007). This was developed in partnership with City of Edinburgh Council and the SAGS. CoSLA will be involved in the plans announced today.