The Scottish Government’s commitment to bringing about effective tenant participation in Scotland has its roots in the National Strategy for Tenant Participation "Partners in Participation", published in 1999, and sets out key principles for good tenant participation and committed tenants, social landlords and Government to a programme of action to achieve this.
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 gave tenants of social landlords a statutory right to be consulted on housing and related matters that affect them. Landlords are required to put tenant participation strategies in place, developed in consultation with their tenants. The Act introduces the concept of landlords registering tenant groups that meet certain criteria, known as registered tenant organisations (RTOs).
Ministers also gave a firm commitment to this with the setting up and support of the Tenant Priorities Team with a specific remit to facilitate the development of an engagement structure at a national level as there were:
- No practical way for RTOs to engage directly with the SG on national policy or with each other
- Minister keen to deliver on this commitment
- Tenant Priorities team were asked to seek views from RTOs on whether and how they would want to take this forward
- RTOs created by 2001 Act
- A starting point for strengthening the involvement of organised tenant groups in discussions on the development of national policy.
- Requirement to be accountable and representative of their members
A national tenants’ conference, was held in November 2004 in Glasgow and was attended by RTO delegates from across Scotland. The conference provided an opportunity for tenants’ representatives to give their views to the Scottish Government staff responsible for policy development and consider mechanisms for engagement at national level.
This conference, for the first time since the creation of “Registered Tenant Organisations” under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, brought together a representative sample of tenants groups from across Scotland.It was clear from the conference that all groups want to influence national policy issues, although the level of involvement may differ from group to group. RTOs wanted further more detailed consultation. Regional structures were favoured but not defined and more detailed consultation was required.
The Tenant Priorities team then supported some 18 months of national consultation: with
- workshops across Scotland
- a survey of RTO’s
- consultation overseen by a working group made up of 17 RTO representatives (National Engagement Working Group), and
- an RTO Conference in March 2006 to report findings and agree the next steps.
- Conference planning groups were established for all of the regions
- 9 successful regional conferences were held
- Steering Groups formed to take forward the practicalities of formally establishing each network
- Steering groups developed draft constitution, election proposals and consider communication strategy
- RTOs were consulted on proposals
- Responses considered and feedback given, and
- Elections and Inaugural AGM’s held 2008.
The Regional Networks were formally established in 2008, with the support of the Scottish Government, to build partnerships between the Scottish Government and Registered Tenant Organisations (RTOs). They provide a practical way for the formal tenant movement in Scotland to become involved in the development of national housing policy.