Weekly Round-Up

Community Empowerment

The Scottish Parliament last week passed the Community Empowerment Bill which will give communities more powers to take on land and buildings and to have a say on how their services are delivered

Communities will have more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas – this could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use. Local groups will also be able to take the initiative and, instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups will be able to put forward their case for why a community centre would be better run by the community itself. Local authorities and public bodies will then have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities.

The Bill will also

  • provide stronger protection for allotments and encourage creation of allotments
  • give community groups earlier opportunities to be involved in discussions about services, including funding, with health boards, police or local authorities.

There will also soon be a Scottish Government  consultation about how to enhance the rights of football supporters so that they have a greater say in the decision-making, running and potentially ownership of their football clubs.

Speaking after the vote to approve the Bill, Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister, Marco Biagi said:

“This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.”


Democratic participation – Votes for 16 and 17 year olds and EU nationals

The difference between the Holyrood and Westminster Parliaments in standards of inclusivity and democratic participation has been thrown into sharp relief this month.

On 18th June the Scottish Parliament passed The Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill which lowers the voting age for Scottish Parliament and local government elections. This means that 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections just as they so enthusiastically did at the Referendum last September. EU nationals already had the vote for both the Referendum and the Scottish Parliament.

Contrast this with the debate on the EU Referendum in Westminster. Unlike the Scottish Referendum, the EU Bill as presented would not allow most EU nationals living and working in the UK to vote, or 16 and 17 year olds. Indeed, our MSP and French national, Christian Allard, would be unable to vote.

As SNP spokesperson on Europe, Stephen Gethins MP said:

“The EU Referendum Bill clearly fails to meet the gold standard set by the Independence Referendum in Scotland. Scotland’s Independence Referendum was an exercise in democracy that aimed, and succeeded  in, getting as many people as possible involved. However, this legislation as it stands, limits the voting franchise – the vast majority of EU nationals living in the UK will be unable to vote, likewise 16 and 17 year olds. Surely it is the electorate who should choose the politicians, and not the other way round?”


World Refugee Day: Saturday 20th June

This year’s World Refugee Day comes in the midst of the crisis around migration in the Mediterranean – which international aid groups estimate could lead to 30,000 deaths this year unless action is taken.  The Scottish Government has consistently called on the UK Government to demonstrate its commitment to a long-term solution to the problem.

The UK Government has also previously faced criticism for its treatment of migrants held at the Dungavel Immigration Detention Centre – and the UK is the only country in the EU which has no cap on how long people can be detained under immigration powers.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to mark World Refugee Day calling for an ‘urgent and radical’ change in approach from the UK Government on asylum and refugees. The motion calls on the UK Government to “make clear its commitment to working with EU partners to find a long-term solution to the problem as part of a complete change in approach with regard to asylum and refugees which prioritises compassion, fairness and humanity rather than the uncaring attitude displayed until now.”

Commenting, Ms McKelvie added:
“The SNP will use every opportunity to maintain pressure on David Cameron and the Tory government to lead from the front on the Mediterranean crisis and to rethink his wrong-headed approach to people in need of our help.”