The Times ran an article on Friday regarding a possible shake up of local Government in Scotland and this was picked up yesterday by the Yoon (Press) and Journal.
It appears that the Scottish Government are looking at Transport Scotland taking over the maintainance of all roads, some shared services at local levels and individual towns being responsible for refuse collection. No doubt other services are being reviewed. Now of course the SLGP (Scottish Local Govenment Partnership), the local authorities who threw the dummy out the pram when the voters had the gaul to vote SNP and up and left COSLA because they weren’t getting their own way have went into SNP bad mode. SLGP convener, and Aberdeen council leader, Jenny Laing said: “The SNP’s centralising agenda knows no bounds. North-east Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said “ we have an SNP government embarking on an all out attack on local councils, removing decision making, power and funds.” Obviously, and as we have come to understand with the yoons, much of what they say is pretty much bollocks. But it does bring to the fore the debate about local Government.
David O’Neil, president of council umbrella body Cosla, said reform of local government was “vitally important”. The Scottish Government said: “In this parliament we will introduce a bill that will refresh local democracy by giving more power to local communities. “ We will review the roles and responsibilities of local authorities with an aim to transform our democratic landscape, protect and renew public services and refresh the relationship between citizens, communities and councils.”
Now I lean towards more powers being devolved down than up, every local authority is different with different needs and as many decisions should be made locally as possible. I am not against shared services at all, esp where this protects jobs and delivers better outcomes. I am less inclined to have centralised services, I was for the idea of Police Scotland but I am not convinced it has worked as well as we hoped it would, I accept that Police Scotland are in a no win situation with the yoons and the SNP bad media but it does seem to be distant from local accountability and while that may not be the case it appears to be that way from the outside looking in. I am also not for 32 local councils, while this may look more democratic, in some ways I think it is too many for the size of the country. I would like to see less, although there would be a lot of opposition to that I suspect, but I would not be upset if say Dundee were to become a part of Angus for example, sharing resources and possibly making things better across the board. However we would need to study this and compare across the UK and the EU to see what others do.
Devolution for me has been a fantastic thing for Scotland, total nightmare for Labour as they hoped it would end the independence debate, and a lifeline for the Conservatives and the Liberals as Holyrood has allowed the Liberals to remain on life support and the Tories to capture the yoon vote and stage a holding position, don’t forget Ruth Davidson continues to get less of a vote than her predecessors no matter what the yoon press say.
As we lead up to the local council elections next year now is the time for a debate on the shape and future of local councils, esp given the continued onslaught of cuts from the Conservatives at Westminster and blamed on the SNP at Holyrood. I would not be against more decisions regarding health being taken at the local level involving local health care professionals and elected representatives, I would not be against more shared services and larger local councils coming down from 32, although I accept that reducing the number of local councils does little to make local democracy easier and a debate would need to be had. I would also like to see more fiscal autonomy to local councils, the changes to council tax are to be welcomed but councils need to be able to set the rate or decide on a freeze and be answerable to local people for the decisions they make. An interesting debate has been opened up by the usual yoon SNP bad media and opposition, but it is one we need to be having.