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Common Good Land in Scotland. A Review and Critique

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Wightman, Andy; Perman, James
Date: 2005
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4492
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Land Tenure & Use
Region: Europe
Subject(s): common pool resources
urban commons
state and local governance
common law
property rights
common good
Abstract: "This report is the first ever national review of common good land ever published in Scotland. Common good assets are the heritable and moveable property that belonged to the Burghs of Scotland. Under local government reform in 1975 Burghs and Town Councils were abolished and replaced by District and Regional Councils. In 1996 further reform introduced unitary authorities. "Common good assets were subsumed within these local government reforms and placed under the stewardship of these new bodies. This property and the funds associated with it are an important part of the cultural heritage of many towns across Scotland and provide significant resources for the economic, social and environmental development of these communities. They form part of a spectrum of common property resources which includes, among others, the Crown Estate (seabed and foreshore), commonties. community owned property, land held in trust for the nation, drovers stances, village greens and the cultural artefacts associated with burgh history. "In many cases, however, the property has been lost, corruptly and illegally alienated, neglected and forgotten about. What remains in many cases is poorly documented with many Local Authorities not knowing what is common good and what is not. The funds (if they exist) are therefore almost invariably being deprived of proper stewardship and thus their full income generating potential. "The history of the common good over the centuries has been a history of wise stewardship followed by corruption, nepotism, cronyism and criminality. Today the situation is characterised by ignorance, bad record-keeping, impoverished funds, confusion and a continuing dose of cronyism, nepotism and evidence of occasional criminality. "This report aims to begin a process of correcting this situation by providing communities with the stimulus to recover their rightful inheritance and to steward these assets solely in the interest of their citizens both now and in the future. "Common Good funds represent both a failure of stewardship over many years and a huge opportunity to promote wealth creation and the welfare of communities in the future. To overcome current weaknesses and secure public benefits the report recommends: a public register of common good assets; a review of the management and public reporting of common good assets; an obligation on local authorities to pay a market rent for the occupation of common good property; a set of new accounting standards for common good funds; a statutory right for communities to take back title and ownership of common good funds, and an independent review of all local authority property sales. To implement these recommendations we advocate a new Common Good Fund (Scotland) Act to replace the Common Good Act 1491 which, rather interestingly, remains in force today!"

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