Kathleen Nutt

Political Correspondent

COUNCILS could be forced to transform derelict land into allotments to meet rising demand to grow fresh fruit and vegetables amid the cost of living crisis, under a proposal being considered by the SNP.

A resolution calling for more gardening space in towns and cities has been included in the draft agenda for the party's annual conference in October.

It says a increase in demand has meant that some areas of Scotland applicants will have to wait 15 years before securing an allotment -three times longer than the current law states.

The motion, drawn up by the party's Leith Walk, and Bellshill and Uddingston branches, also states planning legislation should be updated to require all homes in new developments to have large enough gardens for owners to grow food and that schools and nurseries should also have garden space.

Legislation passed by Holyrood in 2015 aimed to improve the availability of allotments in Scotland and to reduce waiting times for those applying for an allotment.

Part of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) requires local authorities to keep waiting lists and take steps to provide allotments if waiting lists are long.

It states no one should be on an allotment waiting list for more than five years and that the number of people on waiting lists.

The act also sets out that councils' strategies should identify land that may be used as allotment sites and identify other areas that could be used by a community for the growing of vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers.

The motion drafted for the SNP conference notes "the rapid increase in food prices and the shortage of food supplies and recognises the very real threat that this situation will worsen over coming months and years" and points to mental and physical health benefits as well as the environmental benefits of growing food.

It says: "Conference notes and supports the important aims of the Community Empowerment Act 2015, to increase the availability of allotments and reduce waiting times.

"However, given current circumstances further action is now needed. While allotment space has largely remained static, demand for growing space has increased hugely, waiting lists far exceed available plot spaces in many parts of the country, resulting in people waiting up to 15 years to secure a plot."

It goes onto say that everyone in Scotland who wishes to grow their own food should have the possibility of doing so, including those who live in tenements.

And it continues: "Conference resolves that adequate land should be made available in the form of allotment space across the country to ensure that all those who wish to grow food can do so.

"The creation of additional allotments must not be achieved through repurposing existing greenspaces, but by converting formerly developed land, waste land and derelict land for this purpose, thereby increasing overall greenspace in urban areas which will benefit all residents.

"Conference further resolves that planning legislation should be amended to require all new housing developments across the country to include adequate growing space for occupants of the development.

"Conference further resolves that all schools and nurseries in Scotland should be required and supported to establish school gardens, if possible on school grounds, failing which on nearby land, and to incorporate teaching all children and young people about growing food.

"Conference further resolves that more support should be provided to community groups wishing to establish community gardens, including making formerly developed land, wasteland and derelict land available to the group for community growing, and by providing support for skills development.

"Conference further resolves that food growing skills development services should be set up across the country to assist those with their own private ground to use that space to grow food for themselves and for their community."

Holyrood's local government committee launched an inquiry in May to find out if the 2015 act had improved the availability of allotments and whether it had reduced the barriers to accessing them.

MSPs also examined how communities are establishing allotments and the community, health, educational and environmental benefits allotments and community gardens can have. The committee is likely to report on its findings shortly after Holyrood returns in September after its summer recess.

A spokesman for the councils' umbrella body Cosla said: “In the context of the resource spending review and revised capital spending plans it is clear that there needs to be serious considerations about prioritisation, including the implications of new policies on existing commitments. Core revenue and capital budgets are under extreme pressure with effectively flat cash settlement for next 3 years while we have soaring inflation and increasing demand.”

A decision on whether the motion will be included on the final SNP conference agenda will be decided by the party's conferences committee in the coming weeks.

The committee will be guided by the scoring from a choice exercise where all registered conference delegates can indicate a rating of each potential resolution from the provisional agenda.