Empower communities to be able develop localised solutions to tackle climate change.

A just transition puts people, communities and places at the heart of our approach to climate change action. Delivering our vision successfully by 2045 will mean that our places and communities will support well-being and healthier lifestyles for people, while driving regional inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Communities, therefore, have a fundamental role to play in our response to the global climate emergency and to achieving our net zero target and we are committed to ensuring they are at the forefront of our green recovery and a just transition to net zero.

The Scottish Government is committed to taking a place based approach addressing the needs of communities and realising their potential. We will work with local communities in order to improve people’s lives, support economic growth, and create more successful places, and communities are uniquely placed to play a critical role in shaping and driving forward climate action. As underlined in our Public Engagement Strategy on Climate Change, we will take a participatory approach to policy making to ensure that people are shaping just, fair and inclusive policies that promote the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Communities will have a key role in this; the transition to net zero will affect our day-to-day lives in all sorts of ways and we are committed to ensuring that people, places, and communities are empowered to play a decisive role in shaping these changes.

Encouraging transformational change across all of our communities and supporting them to be climate ready is vital in our just transition to net zero. As highlighted under Goal 8, encouraging community climate action is a key part of our activities and initiatives to engage the public on climate change. With that in mind, we are continuing to provide funding and support for community climate action to enable people to, collectively, explore and adopt low carbon behaviours and build local capacity for continued bottom-up change. This includes supporting communities to make the transition to low carbon and climate resilient living through:

  • Community Climate Action Hubs, which will provide a vehicle for communities to come together and engage in collective climate action, empowering them to develop local solutions to making the transition to net zero and climate resilient living.
  • Working with Architecture and Design Scotland to deliver a network of Climate Action Towns, targeted at small towns with little historical engagement in climate action and complementing other placed based initiatives
  • Delivering peer to peer networking and learning through Scottish Communities Climate Action Network’s (SCCAN)
  • Working to embed climate objectives into all mainstream funding
  • Improving community involvement in the planning system, including through community led Local Place Plans, which were introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.

Following analysis of the Assembly’s recommendations, the Scottish Government will take the following actions:

  • We will be working with the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) to explore and develop Green Participatory Budgeting initiatives.
  • We will consider the Assembly’s recommendations as we review the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, and as part of the new Land Reform Bill.

Recommendation 48: Community Low Carbon Heating

Provide government incentives for local authorities and social housing providers to work with communities to develop low carbon heating systems in neighbourhoods.


Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports providing incentives for local authorities and social housing providers to work with communities on low carbon heating systems.


We will continue to work closely with councils and social landlords through the Heat in Buildings programme. We are supporting the development of Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies, as well as ongoing delivery through our Area Based Schemes, and Scottish Cities Alliance. We are also funding local action, engagement and leadership in the development of low and zero emissions heating systems through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), Social Housing Net Zero Heat Fund and the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) will be in place for all local authority areas by the end of 2023. They will set out the long-term plan for decarbonising heat in buildings and improving their energy efficiency across an entire local authority area, and form a basis for local community engagement.

Community engagement should not just be linked to the consenting process. We believe it has a strong role to play in decisions to designate heat network zones. As set out in the Heat in Buildings Strategy, LHEES will form a basis for local public engagement, awareness raising and involvement in decision making at the local level, and will facilitate extensive engagement with local communities. The heat networks aspects of LHEES will be the first phase in heat network zoning, as such we propose that we embed community engagement into the heat network zoning process as we develop a more detailed methodology.

The Area Based Schemes (ABS), funded by the Scottish Government, provide a locally planned and targeted approach that works well for communities. ABS target the ‘hardest to treat’ properties requiring external wall or complex cavity wall insulation, making homes warmer and less expensive to heat. By leveraging investment by private and social landlords, Energy Company Obligation finance and Scottish Government funding, ABS projects have been successful in delivering these improvements for mixed tenure and multi-occupancy properties (e.g. flats, terraces, council estates/projects). Since 2019 we have expanded the scope of ABS projects to include provision of zero/low carbon heating and microgeneration (solar PV etc.), where this is technically feasible and will help to reduce fuel poverty.

In line with our commitments in the Programme for Government, the Scottish Government has increased our annual investment in local ABS projects to £64 million in 2021-22. We plan for many more projects to include whole house retrofits and expect to see up to 600 fuel poor households benefitting from new Air Source Heat Pumps in 2021-22. ABS has also supported the expansion of District Heat Networks and we work closely with our local delivery partners to improve and expand programme delivery.

Our current Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), with an annual budget of around £8 million, will give priority to support community-led projects to address and champion heat decarbonisation at a local level. Through CARES we will work to understand further the funding models and solutions most appropriate for the delivery of community-led renewable heat projects in Scotland.

The Heat in Buildings Strategy also commits to explore the opportunity to work together to integrate these community renewable heat models with emerging community climate action initiatives such as Climate Action Towns and Community Climate Action Hubs, where there are real opportunities for citizens to shape the future development of their communities.

In the second half of 2020, we launched the Social Housing Net Zero Heat Fund, to support social housing landlords across Scotland to take forward projects to deploy zero emissions heat, improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty. We have committed to extend the fund over the next five years with a total value of £200 million over this Parliament. The fund is a capital grant fund that has been designed to accelerate the delivery of energy efficient, zero emission heat provision to social housing projects across Scotland.

As the current Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP) draws to a close in 2021, we are developing a successor programme as the primary mechanism for deploying zero emissions heat at scale, co-ordinating our support for the roll-out of heat networks and heat infrastructure. To achieve this, we will invest £400 million over the next five years in large-scale heat decarbonisation infrastructure. The successor to the LCITP will offer a comprehensive package of financial and wider support across capital and development needs to large-scale heat decarbonisation projects. This funding will be made available to a wide range of organisations including Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords.

We are committed to working with the sector to assess the impact of funding to date and ensure that our funding effectively supports further acceleration of decarbonisation of our housing stock.

In relation to heat networks, Part 2 of the Heat Networks (Scotland) Act 2021 requires community engagement reports to accompany applications for heat network consent. We intend to publish guidance to support community engagement in the heat networks sector. There are a number of existing community engagement models, including the model used in the Planning System, as well as best practice guides such as the Citizens Advice Scotland’s “Engaging Heat and Minds” report.

We are seeking views in our Draft Heat Network Delivery Plan on how best to ensure effective and meaningful community engagement and are interested in what models could be adopted for heat networks.

Recommendation 49: Community Engagement

Provide government support for community engagement, to empower local people to make decisions around their needs and conduct transparent consultations.


Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the Assembly’s recommendation to provide government support for community engagement, to empower local people to make decisions around their needs and conduct transparent consultations.


An expert working group has been established to set out how the use of deliberative processes can be made a routine part of policymaking and public service processes in Scotland. These recommendations will help guide the Scottish Government’s approach to future citizens assemblies and other engagement, and will reinforce the need to consider how this will support engagement within a community setting.

The new Open Government Action Plan will set out a continued commitment to improving participation and engagement across the Scottish Government, as well as establishing a Network for Participation which will aim to support grassroots participation within communities across Scotland.

The Scottish Government is committed to a Scotland in which everyone can play a full part in society, with empowered communities able to shape their individual and collective futures, and we have backed this aspiration by introducing the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, enabling communities to have more control over the decisions that affect them, and to develop their own economies, well-being and environments.

We have introduced Participation Requests, which help people start a dialogue about the things that matter to their community; to have their voice heard in policy and service development through contributing to decision-making processes, and to challenge decisions and seek support for alternatives, which improve outcomes.

Our Asset Transfer legislation gives community organisations a right to ask to take over control of land or buildings owned by local councils, the Scottish Government, and other public authorities, and is designed to encourage and support the ownership and control of assets by communities and should be considered in situations that recognise the public benefits that the community use will bring.

Outwith legislation the Scottish Government supports participatory budgeting as a tool for community engagement and as a way to build on the wider development of participatory democracy in Scotland. Our national support programme is delivered in partnership with local authorities, communities and third sector organisations, and implemented across policy areas from policing to health and social care, transport and education. Over the last few years this enabled over 122,000 voters to have a direct say on the dispersal of more than £6.6 million, with around 47,000 people attending events across the country. We will continue to work with the National Participatory Budgeting Strategic Group, which includes representatives from Scottish Government, the public sector, community and third sector groups, academia and participatory democracy. The Group will help deliver on the new Participatory Budgeting Strategic Framework for Scotland with a particular focus on health and well-being, education, housing and climate justice.

Scotland’s planning system plays an important role in engaging people in considering the future of their places. We are continuing to strengthen and broaden public involvement in the planning system. We have brought forward new regulations to support the introduction of Local Place Plans into the planning system and will prepare statutory guidance on effective community engagement in local development planning.

Our Just Transition Plans will ensure communities are partners in the design process, providing targeted support for capacity and capability building where most impactful.

Recommendation 50: Community Land Ownership Reform

Empower local communities to manage underused, unproductive, and/or unoccupied land around them in ways that address the climate emergency through rapid and decisive movement on land ownership reform.


Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports this recommendation and is already delivering against it through enhanced action over the course of this Parliament.


It is important that local communities are supported to make the best use of underused land to help tackle climate change, whether that be for carbon sequestration, energy generation or food production.

The powers required to implement this recommendation are devolved, and, as such, we are already undertaking work in Scotland, through a sustained commitment to land reform that addresses this recommendation.

The Scottish Government has a long running programme of land reform activity. The pre-emptive community right to buy was established in the early days of devolution, in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The community right to buy was extended to urban communities through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. There are also community rights to buy abandoned, neglected and detrimental land, and a right to buy land to further sustainable development.

The Programme for Government 2021/22 commits to further land reform and supporting community ownerships by introducing a new Land Reform Bill by the end of 2023 (following wide-ranging public consultation) and doubling the Scottish Land Fund to £20 million over the course of this Parliament.

The new Land Reform Bill will aim to ensure that the public interest is considered on transfers of particularly large-scale land holdings. We aim to introduce a pre-emption in favour of community buy-out where the public interest test applies and where it is appropriate to do so. The proposals for the new Bill will complement existing community right to buy mechanisms in Scotland.

Through the Scottish Land Fund, the Scottish Government supports communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and land assets. The Fund offers grants between £5,000 and £1 million to help communities take ownership of land and buildings and provides practical support to develop their aspirations.

Scotland also has a long history of supporting regeneration through our well established programmes. The Place Based Investment Programme builds on the relationships and experience of delivering the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund which has been a transformative part of supporting community ownership, enabling communities to bring land and assets into positive and productive use, benefitting local economy and well-being through creation of jobs and delivery of community services. We continue to progress our action on town centre revitalisation, building on the world recognised Town Centre First approach, supporting the reimagining of our high streets. The Vacant and Derelict Land Programme provides a further route to supporting the transformation of persistent derelict land, enabling sites to become viable for new use that can improve the lives and prospects of communities.

The Empowering Communities Programme complements the wider place based investment by providing support to community anchor organisations to build their capacity, resilience and sustainability through enabling them to take ownership of land and buildings. This is achieved through for example our sponsorship of the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) providing advice and guidance to community organisations seeking to manage, own or buy land or building assets and the support delivered through the Strengthening Communities Programme to build core organisational skills and capacity.

Regeneration programmes are delivered through a place based approach which support our ambition toward a just transition to net zero.

Recommendation 51: Funding for Community Climate Action Projects

Introduce a pot of money for community projects (this could be ring-fenced money collected from Land Carbon taxes) to be used to invest in community-based climate action projects e.g. rewilding, peatland restoration, growing projects.


Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the Assembly’s recommendation that funding be available to be used to invest in community-based climate action projects.


Communities are uniquely-placed to play a critical role in shaping and driving forward climate action. We want to empower people to take action in their own communities and in their own lives. Climate objectives are being embedded across all Scottish Government community funding streams as demonstrated by the Scotland Loves Local and Island Communities Funds launched earlier this year. The next phase of the Investing in Communities Fund anticipated for 2023-26, which has a focus on community-led regeneration, has integrated climate criteria in order to support a just transition to net zero. This builds further momentum on the current phase of Investing in Communities Fund, which is already supporting many projects focussed on tackling poverty and disadvantage, while supporting climate change through for example re-use projects, energy advice through to local growing projects.

In our Programme for Government, we committed to explore the use of Participatory Budgeting (PB) as part of our wider support for community-led climate action and in response to recommendations from the Just Transition Commission to implement green participatory budgeting (Green PB) with agreed target levels of funding and to develop new methods for funding a just transition to net zero that mobilises finance towards local projects. We will work with the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) in 2022 to explore and develop Green PB initiatives. With SCDC’s support, we will seek to embed climate principles into participatory budgeting initiatives undertaken by local authorities, building on the agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA that at least 1% of council budgets will be subject to Participatory Budgeting by 2021/22.

In addition to the mainstream community funding streams, a number of Scottish Government funds are available for specific areas of climate action. For example we are committed to significantly increasing peatland restoration in Scotland, and through our new Scottish Government-led Peatland Programme, we are working on a number of fronts to overcome the barriers to upscaling peatland restoration. The Peatland Action project, being delivered through NatureScot and other partners, is a multi-annual investment in peatland restoration, committing £250 million over 10 years to support restoration of a total of 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030.

Alongside funding we are building a new model to support community climate action via a developing network of regional climate action hubs, providing a vehicle for communities to come together and engage in collective climate action. Two pathfinders hubs were launched in September 2021 and we are aiming to have national coverage of hubs in the next 12 months. In order to support communities to take climate action and to build capacity until the network is in place, we will fund 10 local support officers across 10 regions. This will be led by the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN).There are a number of funding streams available to communities in addition to Scottish Government funding. We recognise it can be challenging to identify all available funding streams. The climate action hubs will seek to support communities to identify suitable funding.

The Scottish Community Alliance’s website also seeks to list all available funding. The Scottish Government will continue to review available funding and any additional steps required to support community led climate action.

Recommendation 52: Enhance Community Right to Buy

Enhance Community Right to Buy legislation to make it easier for communities to take ownership of unproductive land for climate action, alongside providing clear policy guidance on how community owned land should be managed.


Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the Assembly’s ambition for communities to take ownership of unproductive land for climate action.


The Scottish Government believes land reform can play a key role in our just transition to net zero. Scotland has a long history of land reform and communities across urban and rural Scotland can acquire land and buildings via the statutory Community Right to Buy. As mentioned in Recommendation 50, this gives communities a wide range of options including buying abandoned, neglected or detrimental land and land for sustainable development. Communities will be supported to do so through the enhanced Scottish Land Fund, which, as previously mentioned, will be doubled to £20 million by the end of this Parliament.

We have an ongoing and unwavering commitment to progressive land reform. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 brought in further land reform measures, including the world’s first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. This statement is due for review and on 5 November 2021, we launched a consultation on any updates required to the statement, including to reflect the twin challenges of climate change and COVID-19 recovery. We will ensure we consider the Assembly’s recommendation as part of this process.

The new Land Reform Bill will build on existing land reform measures to achieve greater equity and help deliver a just transition. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders, including land owning interests, community representatives and the public to develop policy and legislative solutions for inclusion in the Bill, and will undertake a programme of stakeholder engagement as these proposals are developed. We will ensure we consider the Climate Assembly’s recommendation as part of this process.

The Scottish Government provides guidance online to communities and individuals on the right to buy, and on engaging communities in decisions related to land. We also provide guidance, via email, phone or face-to-face, to community bodies wishing to acquire land (or bring land back into productive use), as well as owners and interested third parties. We also provide funding to Community Land Scotland and Development Trusts Association Scotland to enable them to support communities to achieve their objectives. Ultimately we believe individual communities are best placed to determine how to use land they acquire to meet their local aspirations.