Today the Scottish government has published a very welcome consultation paper (media release & consultation paper) on the future of allotments. The reform and modernisation of allotment legislation will form part of the forthcoming Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill and this consultation is the opportunity to get the allotment bit of that bill right.

It is significant that the media release is illustrated with a tiny little garden shed and a wheelbarrow – the essence of the spartan and utilitarian idea that was embodied in the Allotments (Scotland) Act 1892 (original version here) which provided the statutory basis for burghs to respond to any “demand for allotments for the labouring population in such burgh….” Section 2(1) This notion of a small plot of land for the labouring classes to grow food has hardly changed in over a century (and of course the ruling class had no need for such legislation being mostly in possession of ample land themselves).

Meanwhile, in the rest of Europe, things developed rather differently. Sure, there are allotments like we have, but there are also other arrangements which provide fuller opportunities for urban dwellers to enjoy life in the garden. Which is why I have included what I think is a fantastic aerial view of my own vision of what allotments could and should be like – a far cry from the pokey patches of ground that allotments consist of today. Please do click on the image to see a larger version.

This is an example of the German Schrebergarten – suburban gardens which can be lived in over the summer and which provide a wonderful refuge for German families. See a previous blog for further discussion on the benefits this creates for children and families including a wonderful video.

My vision of the future is of land around our towns and cities devoted to food-growing, suburban gardens and forests – something like Frankfurt – and further out on the continuum, huts….

Of which more soon.

Meanwhile do respond to the consultation which is open until 24 May 2013.


The Scottish Government is holding 3 “engagement” events to allow members of the public to discuss the allotments consultation and how it fits into the wider work being taken forward by the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Friday 3rd May Great Glen House, Leachkin Road, INVERNESS at 1100hrs – 1300hrs
Tuesday 7 May Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, GLASGOW 1400hrs – 1600hrs
Thursday 16 May Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive EDINBURGH 1400hrs – 1600hrs

Those wishing to attend are requested to email at least 72 hours before the event to allow the necessary security arrangements to be made.


  1. It seems to be read only. I couldn’t get it to accept any comments. Looks like you have to print it out and send through the post.

  2. It is indeed some exciting progress although I offer two caveats, both taken from personal experience.

    Firstly, I live next door to a council tenant who, in the course of about 18months, has destroyed his garden & adjacent municipal hedgerows to raise chickens and ride a large quad bike to his acquired allotment some 500m away. I say acquired as, although the land was leased to the council for allotments some years ago, the council banned additional uptake due to ‘dangerous subsidence’. My neighbour has ignored this & taken over around 2 acres for his own use where he raises ducks, chickens, sheep & pigs.

    Now, I have no issue with free enterprise, however my chief concerns lie in the region that he is clearly raising livestock produce for commercial gain using council complicity without any oversight concerning animal welfare, veterinary care or sustainable principles. In light of recent provenance problems, this is a closer to home issue that seems to defy current legislation or enforcement.

    The second point comes from the reverse angle where about 3 acres of semi-derelict allotments were compulsory purchased by P& K council to make a car-park next to the Tay near Dunkeld. At what point does the utopia of the Frankfurt example, in terms of protected & cherished Greenbelt, get anywhere close to reality if Council apparatchiks have anything to do with local enforcement?

  3. Isn’t this, essentially, in Scots parlance, ‘hutting’? The practice of having a simple summer residence outside the town, often with some land, was traditional in many parts of Scotland and is common across northern Europe from the hyttas of Iceland and Norway to the dachas of Russia. This really ought to be linked through to Reforesting Scotland’s ‘Thousand Huts’ campaign.

  4. I am very much in favour of developments which provide effectively landless urban dwellers with opportunity to relax as they ‘grow their own’ and develop their personal area of greenspace. I agree that the limited space offered by our allotment areas are generally no more than a veggie plot some distance from home.
    Adopting the German model here would have severe implications on land supply until a sensible land taxation regime was in place to bring order to land values and its consequent supply. Within current circumstances it would seem that such developments could develop some distance from urban areas rather than on the immediate outskirts.
    Rob, since you obviously live close to Dunkeld, do you have a comment to make on the community field project recently established to east of village?

  5. Tom, thank you for raising the community field project; it is an excellent example of community spirit being strengthened in conjunction with a local, benevolent landlord, the Atholl Estates.
    Although I no longer live near Dunkeld, I have family nearby & visit regularly. There have been a number of tangible benefits from the project, but I think one core advantage has been the relationship between family groups, the school and the wider community that has been extended in a mutual manner.
    Going back to the photograph, one aspect which caught my eye was the shared water supply feeding some butts on the division between plots. This is the Euro-typical behavior which has its roots in water scarcity and thus retained value; Scotland with it’s copious rainfall has a harder sell to make.

    • Just the positive response I was hoping for Rob.
      I am very enthusiastic about this project, because, as you say, it embraces a number of wider community interests and benefits.
      Auchterarder has a number of residents interested in developing allotments and due to the points raised by Andy which limit their scope, I am keen than Auchterarder seriously considers the Dunkeld model. One interesting point there is that local enthusiasts of vintage farm machinery actually undertake the heavy work on the land with their relatively light and modest tools thereby removing much of the backache from this considerable vegetable garden.

  6. The most important thing is that folk actually respond to this consultation with their experiences and ideas about how to expand allotments/gardens community food/huts etc.

  7. Seems a bit off key punting stuff from Scottish Land and Estates on this blog. They are an industry body which promotes and supports the biggest and worst of the rich elite landlords. i would stay clear of their self important waffle. Also, the community field project sounds good, but don’t forget about the vast amounts of land owned by Atholl. I’m not saying that this project isn’t a good thing, but would question the long term security of such a project which is still under traditional landlordism.

    As a great example of something perhaps to aim for is the Carbeth hutters near Glasgow Very recently the community bought their land after the landlord raising rents and everyone going on rent strike. Is there potential for the field project to become community owned?

    • Agree with your sentiments Johnny.
      I was not aware that estate had anything to do with field project and thoroughly disapprove of any person/group other that the community having an interest in the field.

  8. Argyll
    Hi Andy…
    Dont know if I’m still your rep here 🙂
    but, I do have an important question on allotments, common good land and transfer to the burgh.
    Its complicated
    SAGS is fully aware of the history and this is a new possibility.