Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Community Food Network Case study

Author: Graciela Romer-Vásquez, Shared Assets

1) Introduction

Three multisectorial and integrated actions are carried out in this case study, led by policymakers at the Glasgow City Council and local community organisations grouped under an umbrella local network - the Glasgow Community Food Network - GCFN:

  • The Glasgow City Council transfers some of its assets (in this case, the public Ruchill Golf Course) through the Community Assets Transfer legal tool.

  • A community network accessing public land (the golf course) through the council-led assets transfer initiative will transform it into a community social enterprise to build sustainable food systems.

  • A multi-stakeholder approach to develop and implement the 10-year Glasgow Food Plan involving over 80 cross-sector organisations.

2) Stakeholders involved

Local authorities involved

  • The Glasgow City Council

  • The Glasgow City Region (covering other local authorities surrounding Glasgow city)

Other actors involved

  • The Glasgow Food Policy Partnership created to undertake the consultation and the design of the Glasgow Food Plan

  • The Glasgow Community Food Network growers - GCFN (coordinator of the partnership)

  • City wide anti-poverty structures (including Challenge Child Poverty Partnership and Health and Social Care Partnership groups)

  • Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, Health Improvement

  • Scottish Government Tackling Food Insecurity Team

  • Glasgow Allotments Forum

  • Central Scotland Green Network

  • Glasgow City Council Corporate Procurement Unit

  • Food Businesses and Hospitality

3) Context

Policymaking around access to land linked to building sustainable food systems is gaining traction among local authorities in Scotland in the face of rising food insecurity, poverty and climate change impacts. These policies are embedded in the process of land reform initiated by the Scottish government in 2003 and the requirement in 2016 for each local authority to build a food growing strategy in line with the Community Empowerment Act. This legislation enabled local authorities to facilitate access to land for community groups. As in other parts of the UK, Scotland’s local authorities face challenges to maintain several public facilities such as libraries, community centres and sports facilities such as football pitches and golf courses.

4) Actions led

  1. The Glasgow City Council leads a Community Assets Transfer

Having struggled to maintain five public golf courses and following a review in 2020, the Glasgow City Council closed them and included them in a process to explore public interest in taking over these public assets. This included a submission process for community groups to take over land and public buildings, for instance through long term leases via community asset transfer using the People Make Glasgow Communities programme. The Council stipulated that public assets will not be sold to private entities but community groups will be prioritised to work towards community wellbeing.

  1. The Glasgow Community Food Network seeks access to public land

Among the Glasgow City Council’s golf courses is the Ruchill course, about 30 ha of land, in Maryhill in the North West area of the city. Here the Glasgow Community Food Network submitted an expression of interest, as did other independent community groups. Consolidation of the network as a registered social enterprise is linked to Glasgow City Council’s requirement to be a registered entity in order to express an interest in a community assets transfer. In the process of deciding to submit their application, the GCFN’s strategy had two paralleled strands developed for about two years (2020-2022). The first was empowering and engaging communities. To this end the network embarked on an action-research initiative with the communities seeking to find who wanted the land and for what purpose, and to build evidence to engage with the local authority. An element of this research was a large community consultation in 2020. Other activities were a ‘Food and Climate Action’ including the ‘Show what you grow’ competition to engage people in a conversation about land for food production and create awareness of the right that people have to access land in Glasgow. This competition was linked to the ‘Demand For Land Campaign’ which resulted in the creation of market gardens toolkits. Other initiatives included the provision of educational programmes on food production and distribution such as the Glasgow Seeds Library and running seasonal events. The second strand was the network’s participation in the co-creation of the Glasgow City Food Plan.

  1. The participatory process of co-creating of the Glasgow City Food Plan

Parallel to the Glasgow City Council’s decision to list the golf courses (along with other public buildings and sports facilities) for community asset transfer, was the policy directive to create the Glasgow City Food Plan. This policy holistically connects land access and food production to social and economic development integrating the national policy target of net zero carbon emissions.

The Food Plan is a 10-year multi-stakeholder and multi-sector initiative led by the Glasgow Food Policy Partnership – the body created to lead the plan’s preparation and implementation. The Glasgow City Council is one of the several actors co-creating and implementing the Plan within this Partnership body. The Glasgow Community Food Network, which has now been working together with the Council for some time, was elected as the coordinator of the Partnership. Other actors in the partnership are from the private, public and third sectors (some mentioned in point 2 of this case study) working towards sustainable food systems.

Preparation of the plan included a public consultation which attracted 600 responses from individuals and groups. The Glasgow City Food Plan covers : 1. Food Poverty - Fair Food for All, 2. Community Food, 3. Food Procurement and Catering, 4. Food Economy, 5. Food and the Environment, 6. Children and Young People. It is an ambitious plan that focuses on the food system crisis alongside reaching climate goals (national net zero emissions targets in particular) and enhancing local economies to tackle poverty within and in surrounding areas of Glasgow. As such, it shows the interconnections between urban and peri-urban food systems. In this respect, there are positive steps to incorporate into the strategy the Glasgow City Region, which covers several other local authorities and their peri-urban areas. The role of the Glasgow City Region is still to be defined. One of the actions to engage local groups in the Food Plan is the People Make Glasgow Communities programme (mentioned in section 4a above).

Results so far regarding the GCFN expression of interest for the Ruchill golf course

  • Following successful first assessment, the GCFN has reached the second stage with a recommendation to join efforts with five other groups also seeking land for food related purposes. The Network has been engaging with these groups and there are positive steps towards presenting a joint application. This initiative seeks to convert the golf course into a community enterprise (its legal character is still to be defined) integrating food production, processing and commercialisation with the development of an educational centre where people learn about sustainable food production while addressing issues of diversity, equality, health and community development.

  • The final decision will be announced before March 2023, with either the land being granted under lease (50 or 100 years) or as ownership community asset transfer.

  • The community acknowledged the importance of land for food production despite the fact that sport facilities were desired and have been increasingly reduced.

  • Through the consultation all residents participated in deciding how the land would be used. This process brought about outcomes relating to education of communities on governance issues such as local authority procedures and community empowerment – particularly among deprived and vulnerable groups. People gained knowledge and practice on how to use the community assets transfer clause included in the Community Empowerment Act.

Results so far of the design and implementation of the Glasgow City Food Plan

  • The Glasgow City Council’s consultation process led to the strengthening of the links between community groups and the local authority.

  • The Glasgow City Food Plan in its first year of implementation has succeeded in delivering the majority of its 55 short term actions, for instance the introduction of the Rose Vouchers to increase access to fruit and vegetables for low income families; the development of the Good Food for Glasgow campaign and two of the community-based projects have won external funding.

5) Limits and perspectives

Limiting conditions to moving forward

  • The community asset transfer can enable community groups to access land. However, the risk is that these groups take on responsibility for contributing to ecologically based social and economic development without effective government investment and a risk of entering into competition with corporate interests.

  • This is evident in the struggles of community organisations to secure funding – including for the lengthy and bureaucratic process involved in preparing the expression of interest for land acquisition.

  • The first year (2021-2022) of the implementation of the Glasgow City Food Plan faced challenges due to increased costs, unreliable food supplies, workforce challenges and extreme weather.

  • The Plan’s annual report in 2022 states that “Securing adequate resources, in terms of secure, long-term funding, appropriate expertise and partner support, will be vital if the necessary pace and scale of progress is to be achieved. Monitoring data is limited, incomplete or unreliable. Competing priorities are numerous and access to suitable spaces for growing, cooking, and trading locally produced food are limited”.

Perspectives for moving forward

  • This case study shows the embedding of community grassroots work in social and economic development supported by local policymaking and national policies around food security, land and environment. It illustrates how community organisations can be key actors for local authorities devising and implementing policies.

  • The processes of consultation for both the creation of the City Food Plan and the one carried out by the Glasgow Community Food Network concerning the golf course are educational processes in terms of community engagement and decision-making.

  • The decision of the Glasgow City Council to give priority to community groups in the process of transfer of public assets is an enhancing factor to motivate people to pursue land for food-related initiatives.

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