Crisis for “grow your own” in Lothian

Research by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone has revealed a mounting crisis in Lothian region for the increasingly popular idea of growing your own food.

The research reveals two key issues.

Firstly, Freedom of Information requests show that across the region there are over 3,000 people on council allotment lists facing waits of up to 9 years to get a plot.

Secondly, some local authorities are opposing the idea of timescales and targets for providing allotments. Existing legislation says councils should provide allotments but it doesn’t specify any timescale, resulting in huge waiting lists.

These discoveries come despite statistics showing a third of Scotland’s population lives within 500 metres of vacant land.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and food spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“These figures suggest Scotland needs Right to Grow legislation in the same way we have seen community groups being given the right to buy land that comes up for sale. It is appalling that across Lothian than are over 3,000 people on waiting lists and probably hundreds more who feel it’s pointless putting their name down.

“It is hugely embarrassing that in East Lothian – known as the Garden of Scotland – there are over 300 people waiting yet the local authority doesn’t want to set timescales to reduce the lists.

“I will be looking for opportunities in the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill to give control to the increasing numbers of people looking to grow their own food. The demand is there, the land is there and the benefits are obvious.”


Freedom of Information requests by Alison Johnstone MSP resulted in the following responses:

Edinburgh Council said it has 2,773 people on its waiting list. The waiting time for sites will vary from 4-9 years at present with an average waiting time of around 4-5 years.

East Lothian Council said it has 333 people on its waiting list. It said its list goes back as far as 2005, suggesting there are some people still waiting after 8 years.

West Lothian said it does not manage any allotments but where possible supports community groups to develop sites that are deemed suitable.

Midlothian said it has 15 people on its waiting list. These people face a wait of up to two years. The only formal plan to extend allotment provision or community growing spaces is within the plans for new town at Shawfair.


The latest survey shows there are 10,984 hectares of derelict/vacant land across Scotland. 30.9% of Scotland’s population lives within 500 metres of a derelict site.

Hectares of vacant land in Lothian:

West Lothian 559

Midlothian 253

Edinburgh 110

East Lothian 38


In their responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Community Empowerment Bill there were conflicting views from local authorities on the need to improve allotments legislation.

City of Edinburgh Council said the loophole on timescales needs to be closed.

However, East Lothian Council said there should not be a specific timescale for allotment provision or specific number per head of population.

Midlothian Council made no response to the allotments question.

And West Lothian said it was not aware of a requirement to change existing legislation and stressed that temporary allotment sites should not inhibit development.