Advice and Support

Community Empowerment

Community empowerment in Scotland is strengthened by legislation which provides community bodies with a range of rights.

1 Overview

Community empowerment in Scotland is strengthened by legislation which provides community bodies with a range of rights.

Through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, community bodies in Scotland have:

  • the right to the ownership of land and other assets
  • the power to engage in decisions relating to land
  • the right to make a request to a public body to participate in the planning and delivery of public services
  • the ability to make asset transfer requests to all local authorities, Scottish Ministers and a wide-ranging list of public bodies for any land or buildings that they feel they could make better use of

Helping communities to use local assets and participate in decisions that affect them is a top priority for the Scottish Government and for Historic Environment Scotland.

Our approach is to help communities understand their rights and offer guidance as the lead heritage body in Scotland.

2 Guidance and support

As the lead public body for the historic environment, Historic Environment Scotland has an important enabling role for communities.

Our vision is that Scotland’s historic environment is cherished, understood, shared and enjoyed by everyone. To encourage and support communities in actively caring for and getting the most out of their heritage, we are developing a toolkit and guidance for communities which we will launch in 2018.

These networks and organisations also offer support and good practice examples of community empowerment in Scotland:

Development Trusts Association Scotland
Community Ownership Support Service
Scottish Community Development Centre
Community Land Scotland
The Conservation Volunteers
Highlands and Islands Enterprise

In the National Standards for Community Engagement, the Scottish Government sets out good practice principles designed to support and inform the process of community engagement, and improve what happens as a result.

Toolkits to support communities in getting involved with issues affecting their local places and public services are available from VOiCE and Place Standard.

3 Asset Transfer Request

Under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, community bodies have the right to request the transfer of land and other assets to community ownership.

Historic Environment Scotland is committed to facilitating asset transfer where it will bring benefits to communities and secure positive outcomes for the historic environment.

Community bodies can make an Asset Transfer Request for assets owned or leased by us, or that we manage on behalf of Scottish Ministers. These are listed in our Register of Assets.

Download Register of Assets

We will respond to all enquiries and will be open and transparent in the way we assess requests and take decisions. We will work to support you as you develop your plans and your business case for managing the asset in the long term. Our Asset Transfer Policy Statement and Guidance sets out how we will do this.

Download Policy Statement and Guidance

We would be very happy to hear from you at an early stage to talk through your plans.

A pre-application enquiry form is also available, and you can submit it to us at or by post.

Download enquiry form

4 Participation Requests

Helping communities to participate in the planning and delivery of the public services that they use is a key part of the community empowerment agenda and public services reform.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 provides community bodies with the right to make a request to a public body to participate in a process to improve an outcome that is relevant to them. This is called a “participation request”.

While Historic Environment Scotland are not a named Public Service authority for the purpose of Participation Requests, we would still like to hear from you if there are any services we deliver that you would wish to participate in.

Please contact the Chief Executive’s Office at to find out more about our current plans for the delivery of services and for the outcomes we’re seeking to deliver.

5 Community planning

Community planning is a process in which public bodies work together with communities to plan and deliver better services which make a real difference to people’s lives.

This approach provides opportunities to address some of Scotland’s big challenges, such as generating sustainable economic growth, tackling social deprivation, poor health and many more.

Historic Environment Scotland can help communities recognise how the historic environment can be part of the solution to these challenges. We welcome enquiries from Community Planning Partnerships and related groups, and can provide support on the benefits that the historic environment can bring to community planning.

6 Community rights to buy land

Community bodies in Scotland have the right to register an interest in any land and be given the opportunity to purchase land in the public interest through Community Right to Buy (CRtB).

The CRtB extends to:

  • churches
  • pubs
  • empty shops
  • fields and more

This route can be used for land that has been abandoned, neglected or is causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community. The community body must have proposals for that land that could further the achievement of sustainable development.

Historic Environment Scotland is identified by CRtB as a regulatory body that can help to tackle abandoned or neglected land, buildings or structures to mitigate the harm experienced by communities.

We encourage and enable the positive reuse of historic buildings by giving advice on project development, conservation, planning and feasibility.

Buildings at Risk Register

We publish and maintain the Buildings at Risk Register. This searchable database monitors the condition of listed buildings and buildings in Scotland’s conservation areas that have fallen into disrepair or are considered to be at risk, perhaps because they are vacant with no clear future

Find out more about the Buildings at Risk Register.


We offer grants to projects that share our aims to protect and promote the historic environment and deliver benefits for people. This includes funding to repair historic buildings and a support fund, which is used to provide support for one-off heritage events, small projects and training activities.

When making grant decisions, we consider the extent to which a project will:

  • deliver benefits for communities
  • promote public access
  • promote quality
  • develop knowledge and skills
  • build capacity for local heritage management

Learn more about our grants and funding.