Frequently asked questions

If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, don’t hesitate to ask.

About common good assets

What is a common good asset?

A common good asset is a type of property that is unique to Scotland. This 2014 report has a good succinct explanation of what common good property is and where it came from.

In short, it is special type of property owned by local authorities in Scotland, which is legally distinct from all the other property which they own. It is of historic origin and was once the property of one of Scotland’s burghs – a form of local government that has been superseded.

Common good assets are often divided into one of two types. They can be ‘moveable’ – like cash in the bank, paintings, or historic civic regalia. Or they can be fixed property – such us land or buildings.

Why do common good assets matter?

Common good property accounts for less than 1% of all Scottish local authority assets, but are still collectively worth more than £800m. Some are essentially ‘priceless,’ due to their historic significance.

Each year some common good funds generate a financial surplus which support good causes up and down the country. Across Scotland this surplus is worth around £20m each year.

Despite the special status of common good funds, and the fact that common good assets are often of historical or public significance, there has been a long history of mismanagement of these assets by local government bodies.

You can find more detail in our reporting about the management of common good funds on The Ferret website.

What does the money get spent on?

The money generated by Common Good Assets gets put to many different uses. Sometimes funds are spent on maintaining the common good assets themselves. Often surpluses are distributed as small grants to local community groups or spent on ‘civic’ activities.

Usually, local councillors decide how the money is spent and distributed.

In 2019, Ally Tibbitt compiled the data on the previous three years of common good spending worth £58m. You can search it here:

How much is my local common good fund worth?

Every local authority with common good assets is supposed to report on the value of the common good funds it holds in it’s annual accounts. You should be able to find the most recent set of accounts on your local council website.

You can also see how your local fund has changed in value here.

How do we know whether we’ve found all the common good assets?

The short answer is we don’t. Common Good asset registers are published by most Scottish local authorities. However, it can take a lot of research to identify common good assets and sometimes new ones come to light from time to time.

If you know that we’re missing one, please let us know and we’ll add it.

Can common good assets be sold or removed from a register?

Yes, they can, although council’s must go through a specified legal procedure to sell a common good asset.

Sometimes common good assets can be removed from the register for other reasons – perhaps if new information has come to light about an assets history.

If there’s an asset shown on this site that should be removed, please let us know and we’ll remove it.

Do all scottish councils have common good assets?

No, some do not. Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar have no common good assets. This is one reason why there are gaps in our common good map of Scotland.

Other councils, such as West Dunbartonshire do have common good assets, but do not publish the register online.

Still others such as Dundee have no physical common good assets – all their common good property is in the form of liquid assets such as ‘bonds’ and other investments.

About this project

Why are you doing this?

We’ve been reporting on common good assets for years, and realised a site like this might be useful.

We hope it will make it easier to find, track and share information on common good assets and help to improve the way they are managed.

Who is behind this?

This site was made by Ally Tibbitt, on behalf of The Ferret Media ltd. Ally Tibbitt also maintains it.

It grew out of reporting by Ally Tibbitt and Jamie Mann over a number of years. Euan Healy helped us to clean up the FOI data we have before publication. The research costs and creation of the site was funded by The Caledonia Trust.

If you find it useful, please consider joining The Ferret. The Ferret is cooperative, and is only able to do things like this because of the financial support of our members.

How can I get involved?

Despite our best efforts to date – we’ve spent quite a few weeks digging into spreadsheets and building websites to get this far – the data is still messy and often quite sparse.

You can help us by:

1. Sending photos of a particular asset so we can add it to the entry.

2. Locate an asset which is not on the map. To do this we need latitude and longitude coordinates.

3. Letting us know if something needs to be added, clarified, or removed. Do you know more background information about any of these common good assets?

4. Technical help on improving the way the data is presented. If you are a WordPress developer and have experience of working with big datasets then let us know.

5. Sending in extra FOI requests and collating the data they generate in Google Sheets.

If this sounds interesting, get in touch.

Can I use the data?

If you use the data in a public-facing or corporate project, we’d be very grateful if you could credit The Ferret for putting it all together.

Where is the data from?

The data is mainly sourced from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made in 2022 via What Do They Know.

At the bottom of each asset listed on this site, there is a link to the FOI request so that you can go back to the source and find it. If we edit or add any additional information to a record, we’ll do our best to record any additional sources.

Why is the data so messy or incomplete?

For the most part we have published what local authorities sent to us, with very little editing.

Although we asked for detailed location information, often councils only sent us vague descriptions of where an asset was located or what it actually was. Sometimes assets did not even have a name. Very few councils provided individual valuations for the assets they hold.

Some councils also treat common good land as a separate asset from any building that is on it. Sometimes one building or area of land can have multiple common good entries for parts that are joined or adjacent to each other.

Over time we hope we can sort out some of the more confusing entries, but this will need to be handled carefully – and probably with a bit of local knowledge.

Lastly we’ve done our best to clean up the data so that it is more easily understood, and put it into a consistent structure. Nevertheless, it remains the case that there may still be data appearing in the wrong place on it’s online entry. If you spot an entry that could be improved, please tell us.

Do you work for a council?

You can help us improve the data on this website by sending us better quality, well-structured data, about the common good assets managed by the local authority you work for.

We’d be delighted to speak to you about this. Here’s how to get in touch.