Vacant and derelict land is a big problem for Scotland. As a nation we have nearly 12,000 hectares of it – twice the size of the city of Dundee. Much of this is in some of our most deprived communities, with real impacts on the quality of people’s lives. Could this land be brought back into much-needed productive use, as – for example – affordable housing, community facilities, business premises or public spaces?
Last week The Scottish Land Commission and Scottish Environment Protection Agency launched a new partnership and taskforce to transform Scotland’s approach to vacant and derelict land. The two organisations have signed a ‘Sustainable Growth Agreement’ – designed to explore new and innovative ways to bring vacant and derelict land into productive use.
Its goals include working with local authorities and private sector partners to identify the causes and consequences of long-term land vacancy and dereliction – and developing a 10 year strategy for eradicating the problem.
“In disadvantaged areas of Scotland, it’s estimated that three in every five people live within 500 metres of a vacant or derelict site,” said Scottish Enterprise chief executive Steve Dunlop, who is chairing the new taskforce. 
“The taskforce will help drive practical action and look for innovative ways to make productive use of vacant and derelict land for housing, commercial and green space uses.” 
Bringing vacant and derelict land back into productive use is a key strategic aim of The Scottish Land Commission, which was set up to improve the ownership, management and use of the nation’s land and buildings. 
“The partnership with SEPA and the creation of the taskforce is a catalyst for change from across the sectors in our approach to vacant and derelict land,” said Scottish Land Commission chief executive Hamish Trench. 
“We want to identify what can be done with policy, legislation and action to release this land to benefit the communities living in and around it, making more of Scotland’s land do more for Scotland’s people.
 SEPA’s One Planet Prosperity strategy is leading to a fresh approach to regulation, helping households, businesses and the whole of the public sector to consume less, and to use resources – including vacant and derelict land – more productively. 
 “Climate change, marine plastics and extreme weather events show that we are putting too much pressure on the environment,” said SEPA chief executive Terry A’Hearn. 
“We are over-using the planet. But we are under-using some of our land. This Sustainable Growth Agreement with Scottish Land Commission is designed to fix this problem. 
“This innovative partnership will transform Scotland’s approach to bringing vacant and derelict land back into productive use by turning once dormant liabilities into national assets.”
Scotland already has some great examples of vacant or derelict land that has been given a new lease of life. 
In Shettleston, Glasgow, people who wanted to grow food for themselves and their families turned a derelict site into a community allotment – with help from Glasgow City Council, Shettleston Housing Association and the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund. 
Since its launch in 2009, Shettleston Community Growing Project has helped around 250 plotholders grow their own fruit and vegetables.
“People get a lot out of this project, because when they first start, they come in and plant their seeds,” explains Shettleston Community Growing Project member George Hagan. “And then three months down the line, they’re eating the produce of that seed – for their supper.”
In the Granton area of Edinburgh, homelessness charity Social Bite has transformed a vacant 1.5-acre site of land into 11 purpose-built two bedroom homes and a community hub. 
The Social Bite Village was made possible by City of Edinburgh Council agreeing to offer the land to Social Bite on a “meanwhile use” basis, meaning it can be used until the land needs to be developed.
“The aim of the Village is to provide a stable and supported communal way of living, giving our residents pathways into employment, permanent housing, and most importantly – integrating them back into society where they belong,” explained Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn. 
On a larger scale, Scotland’s biggest and most ambitious regeneration programme, Clyde Gateway, has brought a number of large scale vacant derelict land sites back in to productive use, with the most recent being Magenta. 
The HALO project in Kilmarnock, meanwhile, has also regenerated a 28-acre site, formerly the home of Johnnie Walker, generating inward investment and stimulating jobs.  


In association with ...

The Scottish Environment 
Protection Agency (SEPA)

A non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government oversees environmental regulation, monitors and reports on the state of the environment, raises awareness of environmental issues, and resolves environmental harms.

Zero Waste Scotland
A publicly-funded organisation working towards a society where resources are valued and nothing is wasted. It attempts to influence and enable change by gathering evidence, supporting positive projects and providing technical advice and training.

Low Carbon Scotland
Organiser of conferences and events aimed at addressing the current carbon reduction position, enabling those leading and driving policies and proposals to share their vision, and highlighting Scotland as the best place in which to invest in low-carbon businesses.

Interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner? Contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137.

l The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.