Allotment summit digs for victory

ALLOTMENT pressure groups are urging the Scottish Government to address the soaring demand for plots as increasing numbers of people seek to save money by growing fruit and vegetables.

Allotment availability across Scotland has decreased substantially to just 6,700 from the boom times in the 1940s, when there were around 65,000 allotments nationally.

However, the appeal of grow-your-own has blossomed in the last decade, as TV cooks such as Jamie Oliver have led more and more people to dust off their trowels.

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More than 2,000 people in Edinburgh alone are on the waiting list for allotments.

Dr Nanette Milne, Tory MSP for North-East Scotland, has called on environment minister Roseanna Cunningham to set up a summit "in view of the fact that demand for allotment land increasingly outstrips supply".

About 80 groups have sprung up in the past five years lobbying for land to be reallocated as allotments while the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society's annual conference has also called for action. In Edinburgh, it has even been suggested that golf courses be sacrificed to satisfy the demand.

The summit, says Dr Milne, must "bring together all the local authorities, the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, and other interested parties to draw up a strategic plan to develop additional allotment space throughout the country".

Ms Cunningham said fixing the allotment problem was the responsibility of local councils. She wants all interested parties to take part in "discussions about the future of derelict land".

"We are aware that some 3,000 people are on a nationwide allotments waiting list, and that 70 per cent of the currently allocated allotments are owned by local authorities," Ms Cunningham said. "That leaves 30 per cent that are not, so there is capacity to grow the number of allotments outwith local authority land."

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said the National Food and Drink Policy recognised the contribution that grow-your-own activities could offer to the environment and health and wellbeing. He said:

"We are in discussions with the Scottish Allotments and Gardening Society and other stakeholders to help unlock the potential that unused derelict land holds for community growing projects and allotments. We are also looking to make more land available."

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Ian Welsh, vice-chairman of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, who has a plot at a private site in Glasgow, welcomed the news of a summit.

"We know of dozens of groups that have formed over the past five years and are desperate for land to be made available," he said.

"I think there is an increasing interest due to the economic climate but also people are becoming more interested in where their food comes from."