A NEW law which will change lives and make dreams come true for thousands of communities was passed in the Scottish Parliament last night in what was hailed as a “momentous step” for people’s rights.

The driving force behind the Community Empowerment Bill, cabinet minister Marco Biagi, insisted the act would “take away obstacles and clear the way” for frustrated communities to take control over their own destiny and give them a sense of ownership of their cities, towns and villages, as well as boost employment, health and confidence.

As the Bill passed through its final stage with unanimous cross-party support, Biagi said: “This Bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.

“By giving people more powers to take over land, buildings and services, communities that may have been excluded in the past, can identify the best ways to improve their area and take forward regeneration on their own terms.

“It will now be easier for buildings and land in both urban and rural areas that may have been under-used to be transformed into community gardens and facilities.

“Communities now have a framework to take action in areas that are important to them, they will be able to improve services like education or childcare.

“I look forward to hearing ideas from communities across Scotland on how they will use this bill to achieve plans they have to help the areas in which they live. When people have greater control of their own future, they are more engaged and are able to tackle barriers to making their communities wealthier and fairer.”

Parliament is still to debate a point on football clubs but the Scottish Government amendment is likely to be approved.

The Scottish Government is launching a consultation on what future legislation could be developed to enhance the rights of football supporters – this could mean football supporters will have the opportunity to have a greater role in the decision making, running and potentially ownership of their football clubs.

The new law will give communities more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas which could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use.

It will also mean local authorities and public bodies will have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities.

Instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups can put forward their case for why a community centre would be better run by the community itself.

The law will provide stronger protection for allotments and encourage councils to create new allotments in response to demand and give community groups the opportunity to be involved in discussions on service with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage.

Biagi has also put £400,000 into a vital support service, Community Ownership Support Service (Coss), set up to help local residents take over land and buildings in their areas and take road shows out.

Biagi, who is planning to step down as minister for local government and community empowerment and MSP for

Edinburgh Central at the Holyrood elections next year, has made a pledge to spend his remaining 11 months making sure that communities take advantage of their new rights.

He visited the Crags Centre in Edinburgh yesterday, which was closed by the local authority in 2010 and reopened by the community two years later.

It received advice from Coss to help it reopen and it now serves as a sports centre for a thriving local basketball club and a wide range of other activities.